The most common type of residential solar is called solar PV. The PV stands for “photovoltaic,” and a solar PV system is a electrical system that consists of solar panels, an inverter, a meter, and a few other components (mounting, cabling, etc.). A solar PV system requires little to no maintenance for years, and if you’re in a place with the right amount of sunlight, you can end up saving money, while also going green.
The overwhelming majority of electricity produced worldwide is used immediately, since storage is usually more expensive and because traditional generators can adapt to demand. However both solar power and wind power are variable renewable energy, meaning that all available output must be taken whenever it is available by moving through transmission lines to where it can be used now. Since solar energy is not available at night, storing its energy is potentially an important issue particularly in off-grid and for future 100% renewable energy scenarios to have continuous electricity availability.[106]
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Solar energy is a flexible energy technology: it can be built as distributed generation (located at or near the point of use) or as a central-station, utility-scale solar power plant (similar to traditional power plants). Both of these methods can also store the energy they produce for distribution after the sun sets, using cutting edge solar + storage technologies.
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Another situation where a small wind turbine can make good sense is in case your province, state, or country has rebates or other incentives that make it cheap to install one (just keep ongoing maintenance and repair cost in mind as well). While we would like to advocate responsible spending of government money, the small wind industry needs many more customers to mature. It takes time and installation numbers for manufacturers to work out the bugs, make better turbines, and make them cheaper.
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This discussion is mainly about factory-made grid-tie wind turbines. The off-grid crowd has an entirely different set of decisions and goals. The main ones are that for off-grid use economic viability in comparison with the electrical grid is not an issue, and a wind turbine can make up for the loss of sunlight (and PV electricity) in the winter months. For the DIY group there are several good turbine designs available; Hugh Piggott and the two Dans have written books that outline this step-by-step. Building your own turbine can be a great hobby, and some of the topics touched below apply (such as proper site selection), but this discussion is not about those. The decisions involved in making your own turbine, and the cost basis, have little overlap with a the process of having an installer put a factory-made turbine in your backyard.
Rated power of a wind turbine may not be quite as meaningless as cut-in wind speed, though its use is limited. It could have some utility to quickly compare, or get a feel for, the size of the wind turbine, but only if those rated power numbers were taken at the same rated wind speed, and if the manufacturer is giving you a realistic number (many inflate rated power). A much better measure of turbine size is, simply, their diameter. As shown above it is by far the best predictor for power output.
By now you are probably thinking “why would these guys tell me the truth? They sell small wind turbines!”. Yup, guilty as charged. We also want happy customers, and the two are not reconcilable unless we are upfront with you, our customer. Truth is, wind turbine sales are a tiny part of our revenue, and while we would regret losing you, we will still be able to put food on our kids’ plates.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, most photovoltaic modules provided remote-area power supply, but from around 1995, industry efforts have focused increasingly on developing building integrated photovoltaics and power plants for grid connected applications (see photovoltaic power stations article for details). Currently the largest photovoltaic power plant in North America is the Nellis Solar Power Plant (15 MW).[24][25] There is a proposal to build a Solar power station in Victoria, Australia, which would be the world's largest PV power station, at 154 MW.[26][27] Other large photovoltaic power stations include the Girassol solar power plant (62 MW),[28] and the Waldpolenz Solar Park (40 MW).[29]
A solar power tower uses an array of tracking reflectors (heliostats) to concentrate light on a central receiver atop a tower. Power towers can achieve higher (thermal-to-electricity conversion) efficiency than linear tracking CSP schemes and better energy storage capability than dish stirling technologies.[14] The PS10 Solar Power Plant and PS20 solar power plant are examples of this technology.
In 2010, the United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants;[132] the largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California.[133] The Philippines follows the US as the second highest producer of geothermal power in the world, with 1,904 MW of capacity online; geothermal power makes up approximately 18% of the country's electricity generation.[132]
When energy is purchased from the electricity network, the power reaching the consumer will not necessarily be generated from green energy sources. The local utility company, electric company, or state power pool buys their electricity from electricity producers who may be generating from fossil fuel, nuclear or renewable energy sources. In many countries green energy currently provides a very small amount of electricity, generally contributing less than 2 to 5% to the overall pool. In some U.S. states, local governments have formed regional power purchasing pools using Community Choice Aggregation and Solar Bonds to achieve a 51% renewable mix or higher, such as in the City of San Francisco.[76]
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The tables above are for HAWTs, the regular horizontal “wind mill” type we are all familiar with. For VAWTs the tables can be used as well, but you have to convert their dimensions. Calculate the frontal area (swept area) of the VAWT by multiplying height and width, or for a curved egg-beater approximate the area. Now convert the surface area to a diameter, as if it were a circle: Diameter = √(4 • Area / Pi). That will give you a diameter for the table. Look up the energy production for that diameter and your average annual wind speed and do the following:
Smart grid refers to a class of technology people are using to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century, using computer-based remote control and automation.[65] These systems are made possible by two-way communication technology and computer processing that has been used for decades in other industries. They are beginning to be used on electricity networks, from the power plants and wind farms all the way to the consumers of electricity in homes and businesses. They offer many benefits to utilities and consumers—mostly seen in big improvements in energy efficiency on the electricity grid and in the energy users’ homes and offices.[65]
The array of a photovoltaic power system, or PV system, produces direct current (DC) power which fluctuates with the sunlight's intensity. For practical use this usually requires conversion to certain desired voltages or alternating current (AC), through the use of inverters.[4] Multiple solar cells are connected inside modules. Modules are wired together to form arrays, then tied to an inverter, which produces power at the desired voltage, and for AC, the desired frequency/phase.[4]
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