Analyzing Bird Use of Photovoltaic Installations at US Airports

by Jincy Varughese

Recently, multiple airports in the US have installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems in large areas of undeveloped grasslands commonly found on their grounds. The potential environmental and economic benefits have been well documented but to date there has been no research on the effect such systems will have on birds. DeVault and a team of researchers from the US Department of Agriculture and Mississippi State University begin filling this knowledge gap by comparing bird use of PV arrays to that of nearby airport grasslands. Continue reading

Surface Damage to Mirrors used in Concentrated Solar Power Plants

by Jincy Varughese

In Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants, 30% of investment costs are attributed to the installation, maintenance, and replacement of mirrors. In order to ensure high yield at a CSP plant, the solar specular reflectance of these mirrors must be maintained at high standards. However, several environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and windstorms contribute to the degradation of these panels. The latter, is of particular interest to Karim and a team of researchers from Morocco who, over the course of two years, evaluated the effect of windstorms on surface erosion of CSP mirrors. Continue reading

Considering Global Dimming and Brightening in Solar Resource Assessments

by Jincy Varughese

The planning process for a solar power system requires a solar resource assessment which involves predicting the annual long-term average solar radiation for the lifetime of the solar system. These values are determined by using long-term data previously collected at other solar power systems. However, the period from the 1950s to 1980s saw a decrease in solar radiation, called global dimming, and since the mid 1980s, the opposite change-global brightening, has occurred. In “Rethinking Solar Resource Assessments in the Context of Global Dimming and Brightening”, Müller and his team from Germany analyze the effect of these solar radiation trends on solar resource assessments and explore the effectiveness of other solar radiation prediction methods. Continue reading

Environmental Impacts of Utility-Scale Solar Energy

 

by Jincy Varughese

With utility-scale solar energy (USSE) systems growing in number internationally, many have researched the environmental impacts of such systems. Hernandez et al. (2014) reviews studies examining the environmental impacts of USSE on biodiversity, water, human health, and potential solutions to mitigate impact. Continue reading

Analysis of Floating Offshore Solar Power Plants

by Jincy Varughese

In Europe, large flat spaces of land with direct normal irradiance (DNI) levels high enough to support solar utilities are uncommon. Diendorfer et. al (2014), a team of researchers in Vienna, saw untapped potential in the Mediterranean Sea and began researching the feasibility of offshore solar power plants. Aside from the availability of open spaces, building solar power plants offshore has two main advantages. First, a system that revolves on a vertical axis can be easily implemented and is efficient at sun-tracking. Second, unlimited water is readily available for the cooling processes required at solar thermal power plants. In this paper, the use of both Parabolic Trough Collectors (PTC) and Pneumatic Pre-Stressed Solar Concentrators (PPC) are considered. The study evaluates the performance of a preliminary floating solar power plant using a model that accounts for platform motion, sea state, and solar irradiance. Continue reading