How effective would solar be in parts of the world that have little or no sunlight during the winter
I just read an article about the president campaigning for solar in Alaska. Sure Alaska gets a lot of sun during the summer, but the reverse is true during the winter. How efficient is it to use a system that won't work for 3-4 months a year? Would the summer make up for the winter or overload a system?
Well unless vast acreages of solar could be used, it wouldn't be very effective when the sun is low in the sky. We don't really have the technology yet to store energy in vast quantities. Batteries can be used for small scale storage, but the capital cost of a large scale battery storage system would be enormous, and batteries only have a limited lifespan. Pumped water storage is another energy storage option. The way this works is that water is pumped to an upper artificial lake when electricity is available and not needed, and released to a lower lake, generating electricity when electricity demand increases. But even this is limited to storing relatively small quantities of energy unless the lakes are huge. Maybe some of Alaska's myriad of natural lakes at different altitudes could be adapted to creating a storage system. Wind and hydroelectric are another option as a source of energy when the sun doesn't shine. Usually all these power generating sources are fed to a country/state wide grid. So rather than a generating system feeding homes and industry directly, the grid acts as a sort of reservoir so that there is always some source feeding it when e.g. the sun doesn't shine, wind doesn't blow or a plant is down for maintenance or a fault develops. (Think of it like the tank in your loft which can always supply water even if the pressure of the incoming mains supply drops and can't feed the tank). The second advantage of a grid is that it is a web or network of electrical connections, so if one piece of the network fails due to a plant not generating, failure of a substation, a downed power line etc, power can travel through other sections of the web to its destination. I think Alaska has localized grids around populated areas, but nothing statewide because of the sparse population. Electrical inter-ties could be used between grids but apparently this has been deemed uneconomical (This is a 256 page report if you would like to read it! https://web.archive.org/web/20080216014 … eening.pdf )
Excellent ideas. We are teaming w/ scientists in my area. There was one working on the reservoir idea. - I was watching a video about the density of Alaska. If Manhattan had the same ratios there would only be 16 people in the city.
Wikipedia has an article on virtual power plants or "aggregators". These combine several renewable power generating sources into one system such as wind, solar, MHCP (micro combined heat and power), small hydro, biogas and pumped storage.
Judy this is a great question. I must admit this situation never occurred to me. I am looking forward to reading the answers to your question.
Thelma I can hardly wait for someone to answer. I know with wind mills they have to shut them off when the wind is blowing too hard or they burn up the turbine. I wonder if the same thing can happen with solar production in the summer in Ak.
I live on solar power and love it.
I've never been to Alaska and won't pretend I know anything about it, but I do know that solar panels can be erected on 'tracking' supports that essentially follow the sun. Some automatically track, but the cheaper ones for home use can be manually adjusted for winter.
Where I live, winter can hit me with periods of foul weather when there's no sun on my panels to charge my storage batteries, so I supplement my power by connecting a generator to top up batteries. I'm guessing a similar 'winter strategy' would need to be put in place in Alaska.
Does it bother me when I don't have sun? Yes.
Would I give up solar power because of it? No. Never.
I love harnessing energy from the sun. Why would I choose to use polluting power 365 days a year, just because I'm currently forced to use it for a small part of the year?
I'm not an 'all or nothing' kind of person. I'm happy to use solar whenever I can.
You brought up another layer to this conversation. Can solar panels survive Alaskan winters? Also you don't need much electricity during the summer in places where the sun never sets for 84 days.
It's a wonder gasifiers aren't employed more for powering generators. All you need is wood chip which gets cooked to produce the gas (like the way gas used to be produced locally in towns and cities by roasting coal at gas works)
I googled on
least sun OR sunlight OR sunshine
and learned that the American city with the least sunshine has it 35% of the time on average. I assume that means between sunrise and sunset. So I guess solar panels would work at their best 35% of the time. But solar panels do work in ambient light on foggy and cloudy days. And I know someone who does solar cooking with homemade contraptions in northern Idaho.
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