Solar power is generated in two main ways:
Photovoltaics (PV), also called solar cells, are electronic devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity. Such solar cells can be seen everywhere –on roof and windows of houses and office buildings, battery chargers and computers, new cars and airplanes, solar farms, the list is endless. Today, PV is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy technologies, and is ready to play a major role in the future global electricity generation mix.
Solar PV installations can be combined to provide electricity on a commercial scale, or arranged in smaller configurations for mini-grids or personal use. Using solar PV to power mini-grids is an excellent way to bring electricity access to people who live in remote locations, particularly in developing countries with excellent solar energy resources.
The cost of manufacturing solar panels has plummeted dramatically in the last decade, making them not only affordable but often the cheapest form of electricity. Technological advances have also made them more efficient. Solar panels have a lifespan of roughly 30 years, and come in variety of shades depending on the type of material used in manufacturing.
Concentrated solar power (CSP), uses mirrors to concentrate solar rays. These rays heat fluid, which creates steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity. CSP is used to generate electricity in large-scale power plants.
A CSP power plant usually features a field of mirrors that redirect rays to a tall thin tower. One of the main advantages of a CSP power plant over a solar PV power plant is that it can be equipped with molten salts in which heat can be stored, allowing electricity to be generated after the sun has set.
Solar energy has soared in the past few years. Installed capacity rose from under 10 000 megawatts in 2007 to nearly 390 000 MW in 2017, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Renewable energy – including solar – have become the technology of choice, making up almost two-thirds of global capacity additions to 2040, thanks to falling costs and supportive government policies. This is transforming the global power mix, with the share of renewables in generation rising to over 40% by 2040, from 25% today, according to the International Energy Agency.
Power generation from photovoltaics is strongly dependent on the weather. Therefore, reliable meteorological forecasts are indispensable for balancing the power grid and will gain even more importance, as the renewable energy sector expands. For this reason, weather forecasts optimized for energy applications are required.
Accurate measurements of incoming irradiance are essential to solar power plant project design, implementation and operation. As irradiance data are relatively complex, and therefore expensive compared to other meteorological measurements, they are available for only a limited number of locations.
The requirements from the energy sector pose a new challenge and opportunities for national meteorological services. For this reason, the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) is leading international efforts to enhance the quality, quantity and application of climate information and predictions in support of decision-making by renewable energy producers.
Morocco is developing the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world. The Nour Solar Complex in Ouarzazate is expected to generate enough power to provide electricity to over one million people.
Solar energy has been used for over 2700 years. In 700 BC, glass lenses were used to make fire by magnifying the sun’s rays.
Solar impulse: In 2016, two Swiss pilots completed the first circumnavigation of the globe with no fuel, flying 40,000 km to promote the use of solar and other renewable energies.
IRENA Director-General, Adnan Z. Amin Visits World’s Largest CSP Site in Morocco
IRENA Solar energy
The Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label: A label focused on both environment and profitability
World Energy Outlook 2018