Articles for "Solar research"

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Energy | 13. October 2015 | posted by Dorothee Bürkle

Sunshine over the Kalahari

Die Sonne über der Kalahari
Credit: Abengoa
Solar power station in South Africa. Khi Solar One in the Northern Cape region – designed for a capacity of 50 megawatts – will soon be connected to the grid. 

The Sun almost always shines in the Kalahari, which extends across the Northern Cape region in South Africa. The area enjoys 4000 sunlight hours and an average solar irradiance of up to 2800 kilowatt-hours per square metre per year; by comparison, Spain reaches no more than 2300. Therefore, it follows that the currently untapped potential for solar power is immense.

South Africa's main source of electricity is coal (90 percent). Could solar power stations bring about change? Experts in science, industry and politics will discuss this exact question at the SolarPACES Conference. They will also pool their opinions on innovation regarding solar thermal power plants, storage technologies and the use of solar energy to produce fuels. read more

Energy | 08. November 2010 | posted by Jan Oliver Löfken | 4 Comments

Energy question of the week: Why do solar power stations also need so much water?

Solar power plants either make use of solar cells to generate electricity directly, or they use heat from concentrated sunlight to generate it indirectly. The illuminated surfaces of solar panels or mirrors must be as clean as possible so that sunlight can be used most efficiently. Water is used for cleaning, but with only 70 to 80 litres of water per 1000 kilowatt-hours of power generation, cleaning forms only the smallest use for water in solar power plants. What do these power plants need so much water for? read more

Energy | 02. November 2010 | posted by Jan Oliver Löfken | 2 Comments

Energy question of the week: What progress is the DESERTEC project making on power from the desert?

Last week the industry consortium, Dii (DESERTEC industrial initiative), invited attendees to Barcelona for its first annual meeting on the DESERTEC desert power project. Top of the agenda were current developments in the plan created by DLR for the future supply to Europe of solar power from North Africa and the Middle East. But what projects are bringing us closer to this vision of future energy supply? read more

Energy | 05. July 2010 | posted by Jan Oliver Löfken

Energy question of the week: How does a solar cell work?

At present, commercially available solar cells made from polycrystalline silicon operate with an efficiency of 20 percent. Special solar cells composed of other semiconductors such as gallium arsenide have already passed the 40 percent efficiency barrier. In contrast, cells based on organic materials or pigments convert only 10 percent of the sunlight into electrical current at best. All of these use the photovoltaic effect, but what actually happens in the process? read more

Energy | 10. May 2010 | posted by Jan Oliver Löfken

Energy question of the week: Can sunlight be used to split water directly into oxygen and hydrogen?

Solar cells are good at converting sunlight directly into electricity. However, they come nowhere close to the efficiency of natural photosynthesis. Using chlorophyll, green plants have mastered the art of producing energy-rich molecules such as sugar and starch from carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. Would it not make sense to harness this natural process to generate energy? read more

Energy | 22. March 2010 | posted by Jan Oliver Löfken | 2 Comments

Energy question of the week: Has the Emirate of Abu Dhabi overreached itself with its 'Zero Emission City' of Masdar City?

By 2016, the world's first climate-neutral city - Masdar City - is set to emerge from the sands of the Arabian desert. By that date, 50,000 people in Masdar City should be able to meet their energy needs from solar power stations, to move between their 'intelligent-design' houses in electrically-powered cars, and to recycle all their household waste. Nevertheless, isolated cases of Masdar managers resigning their posts are starting to fuel rumours that this ambitious project may, quite literally, be running itself back into the sand. Were the goals of this 22-billion-dollar project perhaps set too high? read more