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Where would you place solar systems to reduce their future effect on agriculture, living space and biodiversity?

Image credit: Solar mixed with rice fields on reclaimed land in South Korea (https://theconversation.com/we-mapped-every-large-solar-plant-on-the-planet-using-satellites-and-machine-learning-170747)

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Nov 02, 2021
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The problem
In an interesting article , researchers mapped 68,661 solar facilities in the world bigger than or equal to 10 kilowatts. What they also found is that these facilities are mainly built on agricultural areas, followed by grasslands and deserts. Considering the future expansion of solar energy trends based on retrieved data, we will have a huge problem with food systems, biodiversity, and lands used by vulnerable populations.
As discussed in the article, policymakers should support and potentiate building solar systems primarily on man-made structures. There was a similar cool idea by Darko Savic and some solutions discussed in the session here.
Questions
  • But what do you think, where the biggest solar systems should be built?
  • What creative of installing solar systems can you think of?

[1]https://theconversation.com/we-mapped-every-large-solar-plant-on-the-planet-using-satellites-and-machine-learning-170747

8
Creative contributions

Build mobile panels to suit the seasons

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Jul 27, 2022
In several countries in the northern hemisphere, most of the agricultural lands are unused during the winters due to snow. Could we utilize these lands to install solar panels? For this we would need to come up with modular panels that can be detached once the winter is over and relocated somewhere.
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 months ago
Good idea, the only drawback is that in northern latitudes where the weather is not suitable for growing crops in the fields in the winter season, there's also little sun during that time - days are short and there might be a lot of cloudy ones as well, so the energy gain from such mobile systems might not justify the cost of designing, producing and maintaining them.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola4 months ago
Very cool idea - mobile solar panel modules. Maybe in form of specially designed trucks or something like that to make it really mobile.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 months ago
J. Nikola Or on top of drones. Each drone carries an allowed area of the panel. The drones will only be used for transport. So, when the drones are not in use, the panels generate electricity that people can use. Only when in transport, the generated electricity fuels the drones. The drones land and connect automatically to form a grid. The grid has only one outlet which can be connected to the city supply.
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Solar plants in the mountains, just above the tree line

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 02, 2021
If wind and snow can be dealt with, large solar arrays could be installed in the mountains, just above the tree line. The panels would be more efficient due to the colder air.
Small caves could be carved under the installations to shield all the inverters, etc.
The correct placement and orientation of solar panels in mountain areas shift a significant amount of electricity generation from the summer to the winter months.
Sunlight reflected off snow adds to the efficiency of high-altitude arrays.

[1]The bright side of PV production in snow-covered mountains Annelen Kahl, Jérôme Dujardin, Michael Lehning Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan 2019, 116 (4) 1162-1167; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720808116

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Solar shading panels on parking lots

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Nov 26, 2021
Almost every shopping mall, supermarket, or big store has its parking lot. During the summer, cars get heated a lot, making the re-entry to a car almost impossible. During rainy or snowy weather, the cars get covered with water and snow, making it tough for people to reach the desired store dry. Also, this parking lot needs lighting, traffic signals, and sometimes music, which increases the energy consumption of the shopping mall/store.
If we installed PV solar panels above parking lots,
  • cars would be protected from overheating during summer
  • people would be able to stay dry during rain or snow
  • cars would get protected during the hail
  • the energy could be used to power the parking lot and more
An example is a solar parking facility at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, with an output of 8 megawatts of electricity.

[1]https://e360.yale.edu/features/putting-solar-panels-atop-parking-lots-a-green-energy-solution

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Transparent solar panels instead of windows

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Jul 26, 2022
Scientists recently developed a prototype of semitransparent solar panels . These, if become viral, could replace not only windows on your houses but glass facades, greenhouse nylon or glass surfaces, windshields on cars, mobile phone screens, etc.

[1]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2542435122002896?via%3Dihub

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Subsidized solar panels only if the roof is optimal for energy production

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 02, 2021
There should be benefits for those that build roofs with optimal inclination and layout for solar energy capture:
Until the world is powered by 100% renewal energy all new buildings should be designed for optimal power collection. The entire real estate of the roof should be used to generate electricity.
Doing it differently should be expensive. Doing it right should be rewarded.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica year ago
My latest contribution to the world. It doubles as hay storage and horse feeding area. Every centimeter generates power. The roof is made from panels alone

The inclination is not perfect. It's a compromise between both functionalities.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikolaa year ago
Darko Savic Very cool! What do you use generated electricity for?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica year ago
Juran everything. Driving, heating, and the excess goes into the power network.
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Suspend them above the clouds with the help of blimps/balloons

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Povilas S
Povilas S Aug 22, 2022
The most efficient place to locate the panels is space, the major problem, however, is how to transfer the power to Earth.
An easier alternative would be to establish solar panel fields at an altitude where no clouds form, with the help of helium balloons or other blimps lifting them from above and ground-anchored wires holding them from below. Generated electricity would be transferred down through the anchoring wires. The system would work similarly as described here.
Different design and technological approaches could be tried to make this work, for example, spherical solar cells could cover the surface of the balloon/blimp to eliminate the need for the system to be two-layered. Also, instead of covering the whole balloon with spherical panels, the balloon could have a "skirt" of flat panels around it.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola3 months ago
Very cool idea. Although hot air or helium balloons seem outdated, the idea makes sense. The energy transfer could be solved by a giant battery also carried by the balloon that gets landed every day (or when it gets full) and is replaced with an empty one.
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 months ago
J. Nikola The battery could consist of many smaller units that could get frequently detached, landed, discharged, and lifted up and mounted in place again by high-altitude drones.
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Place them in orbit and transfer the power down with far-field wireless power transfer

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Povilas S
Povilas S Aug 22, 2022
Mount large surface area panels on satellites and let them orbit the Earth. This will lead to the highest energy yield possible. The generated power can be transferred down using microwaves, scientists could work on improving the efficiency and safety of power transfer using this or other far-field wireless power transfer methods.
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Solar-panel covered planes

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Aug 22, 2022
What if all the planes had their top parts of the body and the wings covered with thin solar panels? The energy could be stored in batteries and replaced when the battery gets fully charged. The battery would then be used for other purposes, while an empty one would be put on the plane. The process goes on when the planes are flying or not. Since there are around 39000 planes in the world , this could be a large business and a big thing for the environment relying more and more on renewable energy resources.

[1]https://www.travelweek.ca/news/exactly-many-planes-world-today/

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Povilas S
Povilas S3 months ago
Also, maybe the generated electricity could be used to partly power the plane while in flight leading to the birth of hybrid planes as we now have hybrid cars.
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