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Love your solar panels? Your chance to contribute to vital solar research

Posted by Lisa Clark on 18 June 2014 at 9:18 am

Sat on the roof of the Physics department in Sheffield on a sunny day, surrounded by solar panels (and an astronomy tower adding to the view), I think I might have the best job in the world.  The breeze is gently cooling the panels, so I think they are happy too. 

I manage the  Sheffield Solar project at the university of Sheffield and I often sit up here to brainstorm or let my mind solve difficult problems. High above the hustle and bustle of the city, I can let my mind wonder to a world in which renewables dominate the energy landscape and climate change is only a positive thing. 

In reality, the issues our group moot are varied and challenging, albeit fun. We calculate performance of solar PV installations, which informs us how well our country can generate electricity from solar irradiation. That part is a fabulous endorsement for solar PV technology: we can generate clean energy very well in the UK! But what about using the energy when it's made? Or storing it for use later? Energy efficient devices are more prevalent now, but what about appliances that suit solar PV generation (ie sub-4kW power devices)? And energy storage is not yet a trivial science.  

With all the challenges it brings, I love my job. Today, I am sitting in the sunshine pondering how to use a system of installations to calculate the irradiance that probably fell on them. It's not such an easy problem as it might sound, especially when you consider that it depends heavily on the temperature of the panels (electrical devices heat up quickly, but work better when cold). 

To do all this, we rely on kind people across the country sending us their generation data from their own panels, through the online Microgen Database. Right now, we have over 6,300 installations registering data and we use that network for our research. Without such generous people, we wouldn't exist!

I personally have solar panels which I log monthly to the Microgen Database and I passionately believe that renewable technology is crucial in the mitigation of climate change.  Not only will it provide clean energy, but it will force us to tackle other crucial aspects, like energy consumption patterns, efficient use of energy and storage.  

If you are as passionate as us, even if you don't have your own panels to give us data, please join us on the Microgen Database.  We'd love to hear your ideas and for you to challenge our thinking!

More information 

YouGen guide to solar electricity


About the author: Dr Lisa Clark is the knowledge transfer fellow of the Sheffield Solar Farm

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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1 comments - read them below or add one


NECComment left on: 19 June 2014 at 7:10 am

All very interesting Lisa, keep up the good work!

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