One of the great things about the solar industry is its constant growth. It is continually searching for better ways to collect energy. No energy source is completely efficient. Currently Biomass is the most efficient source of renewable energy, converting at 50%. Solar panels come much further down the chart at 4%. This might be all about to change as researchers have been busy developing an algorithm which can convert solar power much more efficiently.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a way to better harness the volume of energy collected by solar panels.
In this new study published in the journal ‘IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology’ researchers have developed an algorithm that both increases the efficiency of the solar photovoltaic (PV) system and reduces the volume of power that is wasted due to a deficiency of effective controls.
The study entitled “Nonlinear Optimal Feedback Control and Stability Analysis of Solar Photovoltaic Systems,” was authored by Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics researchers Milad Farsi and Jun Liu.
Milad Farsi, a Ph.D. candidate in Waterloo’s Department of Applied Mathematics said:
“We’ve developed an algorithm to further boost the power extracted from an existing solar panel… Hardware in every solar panel has some nominal efficiency, but there should be some appropriate controller that can get maximum power out of solar panels. We do not change the hardware or require additional circuits in the solar PV system. What we developed is a better approach to controlling the hardware that already exists.”
The new algorithm allows controllers to target the fluctuations which happen when the panels are operating at maximum output, which is a notoriously wasteful part of the process. These fluctuations have historically led to the wasting of potential energy collected by panels.
Milad Farsi went on to say:
“Based on the simulations, for a small home-use solar array including 12 modules of 335W, up to 138.9 kWh/year can be saved. The savings may not seem significant for a small home-use solar system but could make a substantial difference in larger-scale ones, such as a solar farm or in an area including hundreds of thousands of local solar panels connected to the power grid.”
“Taking Canada’s largest PV plant, for example, the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant, if this technique is used, the savings could amount to 960,000 kWh/year, which is enough to power hundreds of households. If the saved energy were to be generated by a coal-fired plant, it would require emission of 312 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.”
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Though this will not mean huge improvements for homeowners in the short term, the improvements could be massive both collectively and for industrial use ultimately leading to lower operating costs and a greener operation.
Milad pointed out that the savings could be even more considerable under a fast-changing ambient environment, such as Canadian weather conditions, or when the power loss in the converters due to the undesired chattering effects seen in other conventional control methods is taken into account.
There are exciting new solar panel technologies being developed all the time that are either in the pipeline or already on the market. These technologies will completely change the way we think about not just solar power but energy production in general.
Find out more about solar here.