Solar energy today
Singapore, 15th May 2014
One of the subjects that came out of the Qatar event is the increasing usage of solar power and how countries (like Qatar) with lots of sunshine could make more beneficial use of this opportunity. It appears that the conversion and storage capacity of solar energy is improving rapidly with some of the companies providing solar solutions claiming 10 to 15 years life on the solar panels / batteries. Some of these companies were represented on the side lines of the conference with stands demonstrating their latest products.
One of the biggest challenges for all manufacturers in this industry is to “contain” the size of the panels. We have all seen the ugly oversized panels mounted on top of streetlights, bollards or other structures to convert solar energy to much smaller light fixtures. With the technology improving the relative size of the panels in relation to the energy to be delivered is improving as well and specifically in street and landscape area lighting, designs are coming up where the solar panels are integrated in the supporting structure whether pole or bollard. The battery capacity and performance is getting better allowing for relatively smaller units, easier to incorporate as well. From information I received it appears that a fully charged battery can last several days (up to 5, I was told) without sun. Glass technology (required to protect the solar collections cells) is improving allowing for more advanced and structurally stronger solutions as well.
There remains the issue of return on investments for many applications with lifespan too short to recoup the capital investment. But applications in new and remote areas where the costs of providing electricity is relatively high should see many opportunities with the continued quality and performance improvements. The integration allows for some sleek designs in the process.
Light Watch 5-81: Solar energy harvesting…from ugly oversized panels (some including wind turbines) to sleek design integration.