The demand for sources of energy is on the rise due to the increase in global population and the emergence of stronger economies. For years, this demand has been met using cheap and easily available forms of fossil fuel such as natural gas, coal and oil. However, these sources are facing rapid depletion, giving rise to a potential energy crisis. Consequently, renewable energy solutions are being sought in order to avert this. Some examples of renewable energy sources, which never run out, include wind, sun, hydro power, biomass and geothermal (Fanchi, 2013). Solar energy, the renewable source that this paper will examine, is produced when sunlight is converted into electricity.
Solar energy has gained popularity due to a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is that the amount of solar radiation produced is sufficient to cater for the world’s energy demands. According to Engdahl (2015), the average amount of sunlight that reflects on a square meter of land on Earth is sufficient to produce about 1,700 KWh of energy per year when the latest available technology is used. This means that the total amount of solar energy the earth’s surface is exposed to can exceed the global energy needs tenfold. This means that the potential of sunlight as a form of energy is greatly wasted despite its ability to ease pressure on non-renewable sources. Jordan (2014), states that the total energy that non-renewable reserves such as coal, petroleum and natural gas produce in one day is far less than what can be produced in one from a day of sunlight.
Humans have used solar power since ancient times. The technology employed to harness this energy has evolved over time. The use of coal gradually increased during the industrial revolution and people made the shift from wood and various types of biomass to the use of fossil fuels. Coal was threatened by possible exhaustion in the 1860’s, which led to research into solar power. However, this research slowed down in the first part of the 20th century due to the fact that coal and petroleum became more available and cost effective. The oil embargo in 1973 and the energy crisis in 1979 led to a review of energy policies globally, particularly among industrialized countries, which encouraged more research into solar power. This led to the development of various solar power technologies.
The current global warming trends are disconcerting. Indeed, the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere is steadily raising due to the elevated levels of greenhouse gases that trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere. According to Woodward (2008), coal-burning power plants are the leading cause of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States, producing 2.5 billion tons every year while automobiles come in second with 1.5 billion tons. Global warming has already adversely affected different parts of the world. For example, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado experienced their worst wildfire seasons in 2002. Europe experienced more than 20,000 deaths caused by extreme heat waves in 2003 while more than 1,500 people died of the same in India (Bily, 2006). In addition, scientists claim that the perennial polar ice cap of the Arctic is declining by 9% each decade (Bily, 2006). The U.S. Global Research Program has found that the last 50 years has been characterized by a 2% increase in temperature and 5% increase in precipitation (Bily, 2006).
Woodward (2008) notes that the consumption of oil, coal and gas increased significantly in the 1970’s, largely to power automobiles and factories. Woodward also reported that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere today is greater than it has been at any other point over the past 800,000 years. The entire globe is concerned over what can be done to stop global warming. New technologies appear to be the solution to curb global warming. Modernized power plants are being developed, electricity is being generated from sources that do not pollute the environment and vehicles are being manufactured to burn less petroleum in the form of hybrid transport even none at all in the case of full electric-powered cars.
The solar energy industry has the potential for tremendous growth since it is a great way of reducing the rate of global warming. It involves burning clean energy (transforming sunlight into electric energy). Different regions have adopted solar energy and the United Arab Emirates is one of them. Solar power has numerous benefits and many households prefer it to other forms of energy. This paper seeks to examine the effectiveness of solar power in households in the United Arab Emirates. There are different factors that come into play when using solar energy, and this paper considers all of these different aspects in order to determine the feasibility of solar energy and whether the energy obtained is worth the resources spent to obtaining.
The solar power industry is routinely developing technological advancements in order to come with more efficient and cost effective ways of using the power of the sun to produce energy. This paper looks at the future of the solar industry and the various technologies being invented to further develop solar panels. The benefits of solar energy in the different aspects of life will be highlighted in addition to the efficiency and costs of solar panels in the United Arab Emirates. At the end, this paper should be able to determine whether or not solar panels should be used in homes in the United Arab Emirates.
How Solar Power Works
There are two major ways to harness sunlight. The first one is achieved through photovoltaic (PV) panels while the second one collects the heat energy in it. Solar PV devices are further subdivided according to the age in which each was developed. For instance, there is common subdivision of PV devices into generations. The first generation is based on crystal-like silicon, the second generation is developed from thin film technology and the third generation is mainly based on concentrator photovoltaics combined with organics. The fourth and fifth generations have not yet been developed for commercial purposes (Ewing & Pratt, 2005). Solar heating structures in contrast comprise concentrated solar power systems (CSP).
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The process of converting sunlight into electricity in the case of solar power involves such equipment as a solar panel, inverter, electrical panel, utility meter, utility grid and power guide monitoring system. In addition to these, there is a process that needs to be followed to ensure that sunlight is converted into electricity. The majority of solar power systems utilize Photovoltaic (PV) panels which are normally installed on rooftops, although some are installed in other places (Hantula, 2010). The overall idea is to expose the largest possible surface to direct sunlight which makes it easy to gather energy. During the day, sunlight is converted into direct current (DC) by the Photovoltaic cells contained in the panel. The direct current electricity that is generated is then converted into alternating current (AC) electricity through the use of an inverter. This inverter can either be installed outdoors or indoors depending on several factors. An alternating current is the type of electricity normally used in homes. It works in such a way that the inverter sends this energy to an electrical panel referred to as a “breaker box”. The energy is finally transmitted into homes and used to power it. A utility meter is used to measure the amount of energy used in a home. If the solar system generates more power than is currently required, then the utility meter moves in reverse. The extra energy is then used to counterbalance the amount used at night when electricity cannot be generated.
Solar panels that are used homes are connected to utility grids. At night, there is a need to use energy and this is supplied by the utility company. This should not be a cause for concern as the additional clean energy stored in the grid during the daytime makes up for the cost of using the energy at night. Power monitoring guide is important in keeping track of the amount of energy produced and makes sure the solar panels runs smoothly. It is also responsible for giving out alerts if the panel has problems that need to be repaired. The solar panels are designed to automatically turn off whenever the supply of electricity from the grid is interfered with. This is for safety purposes and safeguards against damage that may occur to various components used as well as the general safety of users.
The majority of commercial buildings or homes that use solar panels require about 10 square meters of roof space that are not shaded and effectively facing the sun in order to mount solar panel modules of 1kW (Hantula, 2010). These modules should preferably be tilted at an angle of 30 degrees while facing the sun in order to get the most of the available sunlight. Power is an immediate value and is normally measured in watts. Energy reflects the amount of electrical power utilized and so it is measured in watt-hours (Wh) (Hantula, 2010). Therefore:
The value of Energy (Wh) = power (W) * Time (measured in hours). This means that a single watt is very insignificant. In most cases, kW and kWh are used to measure power and the level of production including usage of energy.
1 kW= 1000W therefore,1kWh =1000Wh
Take for instance a 100W bright light bulb that consumes 100W of power per hour. If this light were to stay on for 24hrs a day, the amount of energy consumed would be
100W * 24hrs which is equivalent to 2400Wh or 2.4kWh daily
Similarly, if the light were to be left on for 6hrs a day, energy consumed would be
100W * 6 hours which is equivalent to 600Wh or 0.6kWh daily.
Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems are able to focus a wide area of solar thermal energy or sunlight on a tiny area through the help of lenses or mirrors (Ewing & Pratt, 2005). This light is converted into heat leading to production of electrical power. This is usually utilized for driving heat engine and is what happens in the case of a steam turbine.
Both homes and swimming pools can use water heated by solar energy. Flat plate collectors are fitted into the solar thermal systems in order to convert sunlight into the amount of heat required to elevate the temperature of water. These metal plates are usually thin and are painted black in order to enable maximum absorption of heat. There is a system of pipes filled with water next to the surface of the plate; this water transmits heat to the domestic tank found in homes.
Benefits of Using Solar Power
Chiras (2006) asserts that many people are interested in powering their homes using solar energy in order to protect the environment. The author further explains that there are few investments that can positively impact the environment in the same way that utility-connected PV system can. There are various benefits that households can derive from using solar power.
Many people who have resorted to solar energy report that it saves money. Therefore it can be confirmed that the use of solar power is associated with lower utility bills. While it is possible to measure the amount of energy that will be produced by the system, it is not as easy to predict how the production of energy will have an effect on consumers’ monthly utility bill as there are several other items charged alongside electricity. However, after a while it is possible to predict approximately how much electricity is consumed in a month. If the consumption of other items of the utility bill is kept constant, a reduction of the total amount will result after installation of PV (Chiras, 2006).
The PV system has been designed to work in very simple way despite the high technology used to develop it. It lacks moving parts, and the simple design means it is also easy to maintain. There is not much required to do on the PV system after installation aside from cleaning it. Its simple nature makes it reliable too. Indeed, these systems can last between 25-30 years (Chiras, 2006). Currently, there is no form of alternative energy with the same level of simplicity as the PV system.
PV systems are cost efficient due to the various subsidies provided by the governments of different countries. Governments worldwide are interested in promoting the use of solar power due to the positive impacts it has on the environment in addition to helping countries move closer to their goal of energy independence. Therefore, such governments have to search for ways of promoting solar power including empowering those who are interested in investing in it. This is why some governments subsidize the net costs in order to attract more investors (Chiras, 2006). The net cost is the amount of money the consumer pays after subsidies and rebates have been deducted. After installation, no maintenance of any significance is needed. This makes the PV systems affordable to maintain as sunlight costs nothing. After paying the initial capital, the purchaser may never receive a bill from the electric utility company.
Another advantage of solar energy lies in its abundance. Sunlight can be found almost everywhere. Better yet, there is still some solar radiation experienced even in the winter despite the low temperatures and lack of visible sun shine. It is also possible to receive sunlight on cloudy days. Unlike other forms of energy, sunlight is inexhaustible.
According to Ewing & Pratt (2005), solar energy is an excellent substitute to fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal due to the fact that it produces virtually no emissions in the process of generating electricity. This means that the use of solar energy does not pose any added threats to the environment in terms of pollution. In addition, no noise is produced during the process of generating electricity and therefore minimizing noise pollution. Furthermore, solar power can be accessible even in very remote areas since the main factor needed is sunlight, which is available almost everywhere. Therefore, solar power can work in areas where power cables may be expensive or even impossible to install. This means that anyone can use solar power.
Generally, solar motorized automobiles have all the characteristics that other cars possess which consist of a motor, brakes, body, wheels, a steering wheel and a type of fuel to enable them run. What makes solar cars different from the rest is the type of fuel they consume. These cars use sunlight as fuel and hence there name. In terms of appearance, they look different from common cars. Just a few years ago, these cars appeared like an assembly of solar panels running on wheels as many of these units were needed to generate enough power to move. However, they have received immense attention from environmental advocacy groups who have gone on to create awareness to the masses, especially through the media. as a result, This has made the public more familiar with them. Many inventors have worked to actualize a world where there would be vehicles with zero harmful emissions, require low maintenance and are extremely quiet. Solar cars have enabled them to achieve this.
Jordan (2014) is of the view that it is not very common to see solar-powered cars in America due to the fact that the last models manufactured were done so in 2010. However, consumers who are concerned with conserving the environment purchase gas-electric hybrid vehicles since they are convenient. Many people are intrigued and drawn to sun-powered cars due to the advantages they possess. Researchers are working determinedly to come up with solar powered vehicles that are more reliable and affordable.
Solar powered cars are gaining popularity due to the fact that they don’t produce emissions. This is possible because they have electric motors; which means they don’t burn fuel and therefore cannot produce emissions. This is the main feature of these cars and can particularly benefit motorists who like personal transportation without contributing to polluting the environment. It is also used by automobile manufacturers and researchers who wish to create solar prototypes in addition to model cars which they can develop further.
Solar powered cars enable the preservation of natural resources. Panels and various mechanism of the solar powered cars require energy and resources during manufacturing. However, they do not need any extra energy input once they have been manufactured as they don’t consume fuel. They never require an oil change, and petroleum-based products are only used to lubricate the plastics or wheels required in replacement of parts. It is safe to say that components such as the electric motor in these vehicles require minimal maintenance compared to engines used in standard gas-powered vehicles (Chiras, 2006).
Owners of gas-powered vehicles may complain of high fuel costs, but this is not the case for solar-powered cars. In addition to zero fuel costs, there are various economic incentives that have been put in place to help in the development, manufacturing and operation of solar powered vehicles. This lowers the initial costs. With no costs associated with fuel and reduced maintenance costs, solar powered vehicles may overtake their gas-powered counterparts in the future. Solar powered cars are sometimes associated with driving comfort. This is because the electric motors used are normally smaller compared to the ones used by gas engines. Therefore, there is more room in the car, which can be dedicated to passengers’ comfort or more luggage room. In addition to that, solar powered cars do not produce noise and vibrations that conventional cars do. It is also possible to make solar powered cars lighter, which makes them easier to turn and faster to stop than their gas powered counterparts.
Solar power can also be applied in farming in the form of solar farming. Solar farming has several benefits and some can make agricultural production easier and more cost-effective. For example, the fact that solar panels produce clean energy makes agricultural production environmentally sustainable. Governments and other organizations are taking steps to encourage solar farming. Solar farming is cost-effective due to reduced maintenance costs for energy. It is now becoming even affordable due to the financial incentives provided. Consequently, many people are investing in it to gain faster potential return on their investment. In addition to these, the costs of building solar panels have dropped by 60% over the recent years (Schaeffer & Pratt, 1996). The various benefits of solar farming are therefore within reach.
The initial benefits associated with solar farming are environmental. The sun provides clean renewable energy with virtually no harmful effects on the environment. The only complaint that can arise is that solar farming occupies a lot of space and the panels may also cause potential damage to the natural ecosystem. However, new inventions and ideas are constantly being developed. Organizations with large fields and airports are also considering this option, therefore reducing the effect the panels would have on formerly untouched ecosystems. Solar farms enable the reduction of water usage. This comes in handy as there are water shortages which can only be expected to get worse in the coming years. An example of where solar farming has created this benefit is in the cotton farms in California.
Using solar energy in farms saves large sums of money. The secret lies in constructing barns and buildings that utilize natural daylight as opposed to electric lights. Lighting can be used all day long in dairy operations, which can improve production and save on the cost of electricity used for lighting. The heat from the sun is also important in warming up homes and livestock buildings. Animals placed in confinement require a stable supply of fresh air in order to remain healthy yet this can lead to significant heating bills. A great alternative is warming the air with the help of “active” solar heating systems operating on heat boxes and fans (Schaeffer & Pratt, 1996). This saves on fuel too. However, the most affordable way of going about it is through “passive” solar designs which involve buildings designed to tap the sun’s energy directly. Cleaning of animal pens becomes even easier when solar water heaters are used as the water is sufficiently hot to easily remove dirt. In addition, solar heated water is important in cleaning dairy equipment as well as warming the cows’ udders. Solar collectors therefore provide a great way of saving on cost every year.
Solar energy helps dry crops and grains faster. Crops that use solar drying equipment have been reported to dry faster and more evenly compared to crops left to dry in the field (Schaeffer & Pratt, 1996). Additionally, the controlled drying environment makes it easy to control pests and birds. It also prevents adverse weather conditions from damaging the crops yields. Some components required for solar drying are simple and easy to obtain and may include a shed or an enclosure, solar collector and partitioned trays or racks among others. The windows should face the sun in order to allow sunlight inside the shed. However, there are other designs that entail a dark-colored box that has a glass cover meant to confine heat from solar radiation. In this case, there is a fan or natural convention responsible for spreading hot air to the crops in order to evaporate the moisture. It is cost effective to heat various buildings using a solar collector during different times of the year. It is also possible to create low-cost dryers out of simple materials in the home.
The benefits of solar farming overshadow any kind of negative effects it may be associated with. Although buying the solar panels requires a significant amount of money, their prices are continuously dropping and new ways of creating space are being introduced. Once the initial investment on the equipment takes place, it is no longer necessary to spend any more on energy. This therefore makes it very cost-effective.
Future Technologies of Solar Power
The continuous rise in energy demand creates the need for more efficient and cost-effective ways of harnessing solar energy. Fanchi (2013) is of the opinion that the sun is capable of fulfilling global energy needs when the right technology is employed. Fanchi discusses a material referred to as perovskite, a material found in the earth’s layer, which is fast gaining popularity due to its high efficiency which is challenging that of the traditional photovoltaic solar cells. Photovoltaic solar cells max out at about 20%, which is the quantity of solar energy that is turned into electricity (Jordan, 2014). Therefore, the higher this percentage is, the greater the energy needs. Crystalline silicon is used to manufacture more than 80% of photovoltaics presently used (Jordan, 2014). However, there is a need for substitutes due to the high costs of their production and installation.
Perovskite, which got its name from the Russian mineralogist Lev Perovskite, came into the limelight in 2009 when researchers worldwide discovered its extremely high levels of efficiency (Fanchi, 2013). The author says that many researchers are discovering its possible applications as its efficiency has currently been revealed to be 18%. There are high expectations of this percentage rising in the future. The Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at EPFL, Michael Graetzel made a discovery on how this mineral works and is in the process of using it to create new solar cells. In addition to developing the refining the existing ones, Michael says that putting Perovskite over traditional silicon cells helps increase their efficiency. He adds that this process is cost-effective and can be used for mainstream solar panels. Although this material shows great potential, it still requires some stability tests because it is susceptible to both water and high temperatures. More research is currently focusing on how to refine this material, develop others or find suitable combination that will increase the efficiency and reduce costs of solar cells.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers have invented flexible solar cells which are manufactured by using willow glass. These flexible solar cells are an advancement over the traditional ones. They are thinner and can be rolled up whenever desired. This is the only solar cell that has rival silicon with regards to large scale production. Flexible PV solar units will drive the solar cells installation costs much lower and make solar power affordable. Various researchers are still looking for new inventions in the solar-based resources and better techniques that will make it possible for the broader public to take advantage of solar energy. All in all, the future of the solar industry appears to be bright and promises better solar cells that are more affordable and convenient to handle.
Solar Power in Households in the United Arab Emirates
Al-Alili, Hwang, Radermarcher & Kubo (2010) note that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) comprises of seven different emirates; Dubai, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and the capital Abu Dhabi. Each of these emirates is governed by a different ruler. The constitution of UAE states that the local governments of the various emirates have control over their oil and gas reserves. The population of the UAE is increasing at high rate which is mainly occasioned by economic expansion experienced in the past decade. This has led to increases in demand for energy in the region. UAE has resorted to importing electricity since 2007 as the local sources are inadequate. UAE uses natural gas as feedstock to generate electricity (Harder & MacDonald Gibson, 2011). In the last decade, the domestic consumption has exceeded production and a solutions had to be provided. Between 2008-2010, the demand slowed down a bit although there was still a rising demand for natural gas, despite the declining trend of its production. The United Arab Emirates had the capacity to generate electricity at 17.7MW: with time the figure rose to 23.2GW in 2010 (Harder & MacDonald Gibson, 2011). UAE, like most of the world, faced a financial crisis in 2008 which led to an economic slowdown. However, the demand for electricity has continuously risen over the years to a point where the natural gas national reserves no longer meet the country’s demand for energy. This has forced UAE to rely on the neighboring countries to supply it with significant quantities of natural gas, although this has not worked out very well for UAE. Indeed, it has caused a strain in the country’s balance of trade. Although the United Arab Emirates faces potential growth in the energy sector, the shortages of its natural gas supply has forced it to consider various sources of energy including nuclear energy, conventional sources and renewable energy sources (RES). Solar energy is a form of renewable energy and has been greatly explored by the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates has an arid, hot and humid climate especially during the summer when temperatures can reach 460 C and relative humidity can reach 100% (Al-Alili, Hwang, Radermarcher & Kubo, 2010). UAE is geographically located in a region known as the ‘solar belt’ due to the fact that is lies in the middle of 400 North and 40 0 South (Al-Alili, Hwang, Radermarcher & Kubo, 2010). The UAE has an extremely high potential for solar energy due to the fact that it receives high levels of solar radiation. Therefore, a solar panel mounted in the United Arab Emirates can generate twice the amount of electricity that the same solar panel would in a country such as Germany, with fairly low levels of irradiation. This makes UAE the ideal place for installing solar systems. Since this region receives sunlight almost all year round, it could easily become the largest producer in terms of solar energy per capita. UAE has an annual Global horizontal Irradiance of 2.12 MWh/m2/y in terms of the power to harness energy from photovoltaic (PV) cells (Al-Alili, Hwang, Radermarcher & Kubo, 2010). This potential is the highest in all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. In addition, the country’s capacity for Direct normal Irradiance (DNI) stands at 2.2 MWh/m2/y and is the recommended potential for exploitation of concentrated solar power (CSP) technology (Al-Alili, Hwang, Radermarcher & Kubo, 2010).
UAE is undertaking various projects and initiatives in order to improve the solar industry. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE) has a goal of producing 1000 megawatts by 2030 in order to contribute to 5% of the total percentage of power required by Dubai (Solar Energy Market Growth, n.d.). It has therefore put in place the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to help it achieve this goal. A CSP plant referred to as Sham 1 began operating in 2013 and is currently the biggest solar project globally (Jordan, 2014). This developmental program is expected to cost 2 billion UAE Dirhams (AED). Upon completion and is projected to generate to power over 20,000 homes (Solar Energy Market Growth, n.d.). Another project put in place by UAE is Masdar City, which will be located near Abu Dhabi. This project is expected to cost $18 billion and will provide 30,000 residents with power (Solar Energy Market Growth, n.d.). All these projects and more are an indication that UAE is taking global renewable energy seriously. As important as it is for the government of the United Arab Emirates to invest resources in solar power generation, it is important to also examine this concept at the consumer level. It is therefore important to look at the efficiency and costs of solar power in households in the United Arab Emirates.
Many households in the UAE have installed solar photovoltaic panels (PV) and many more are considering the option. Whitburn (n.d.) explains that the efficiency of a PV panel is important because it determines the amount of electricity generated. It is important to note that not every single ray of sunlight that hits a PV panel gets converted into electricity. Therefore, a solar panel’s efficiency refers to the actual percentage of energy that the panel is able to convert to electricity. The majority of solar panels have an efficiency of between 11-15% although this varies from one solar panel to another (Hantula, 2010). Solar panels have faced criticism because their efficiency is moderately low. However, there are solar cells of multi-junction that can achieve an efficiency of 40%. This is somewhat more than the optimum theoretical efficiency a solar cell is capable of achieving when gathering power from a cell with the help of a p-n junction (Hantula, 2010). In reality, the maximum level of efficiency that a solar cell can achieve is 33% partially due to the fact that solar cells have a given range of wavelengths they normally absorb in the electromagnetic spectrum (Whitburn, n.d.). The wavelengths symbolize various energy levels, and light photons regularly lack the right level of energy needed for removing electrons away from the semiconductor material that is contained in the solar cell. Multi-junction solar panels are made up of more than a single material which increases their absorption band. In turn, this gives them a higher efficiency of over 40% (Hantula, 2010). Apart from the limitation of the wavelengths of sunlight that solar panels are capable of absorbing, the panels can experience additional energy loss when they are exposed to various angles of the sun according to the time of day. Chiras (2006) explains that there are times when the efficiency of the solar panels can drop down to 15% when the sun’s rays are intercepted and fewer amounts of it reach the panel.
Currently, the most efficient commercially available solar panels have an efficiency of 19%, although new systems are being developed to be in line with the earth’s movement with respect to the sun in order to increase the efficiency to above 20% (Jordan, 2014). A less efficient solar panel means that lots of sunlight is required to provide the same output and the reverse is true. For example, a solar panel with an efficiency of 16% can produce the same output that another solar panel, one with 85% efficiency but with 50% the surface of the first panel (Jordan, 2014).
Electrical energy is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) which is the same unit used for measuring power output. The energy output of solar power is calculated by taking into consideration the area that a PV module occupies, its level of efficiency and the additional two variables of peak hours of the sun in a given area and the system losses. There are various losses that can determine how a solar system works and this is why it is important to consider them. Examples of these losses include module soiling since dust is a big problem in UAE given the fact that it accumulates on the solar panels and end up affecting their performance. Shading may be caused by bad weather and should be considered too, although this is not very common in the UAE. Module temperature is another important factor especially since UAE experiences hot summers. High temperatures can influence how a solar panel performs. A solar panel is normally exposed to a reduction in the level of efficiency in due course, which is why deviation from nominal efficiency is normally considered. Sometimes, mismatching and direct current losses occur therefore hindering some power from being produced and such should be taken into account. PV panels in the UAE experience losses of up to 25% and so the system is able to generate 75% of the theoretical output (Harder & MacDonald Gibson, 2011).
|Loss||Reduction In Output In the UAE
|Deviation From Nominal
|Mismatching and DC losses||2.5|
|MPP Incongruity Error||2|
|Approximate Total Loss||25|
|Percentage Power Retained||75|
Solar irradiation levels refer to the total solar power that an area receives per square meter. Solar irradiation levels depend on a region and time of day, and are measured in w/m2. The total hours that the solar irradiance occur averages 1000w/m2 in a day and is referred to as “peak sun hours” (Hantula, 2010). Therefore, if a region has peak sun hours of 3 hours, this should not be misunderstood to mean that the region only receives sunlight for 3 hours a day. Instead, it means that the total number of hours in which the sun’s irradiance reached 1000w/m2 was 3 hours (Hantula, 2010). Peak sun hours are important in determining the output produced by a solar system. In this case, the average peak sun hours are used as these hours differ according to the time of year.
There is a formula used for calculating the energy output produced by a solar panel;
Area (m2) * Efficiency * Peak Sun Hours *Effective Output % After Deducting Losses = Output (kwh/day).
Take an example of a solar panel located in the United Arab Emirates with 12.4% efficiency and an area of 8m2. This solar panel will produce an output of;
8 m2 * 0.124 (12.4%) * 5.84 * 0.75 (75%) which is equivalent to 4.34 kWh/day. This figure is multiplied by the total number of days in a year in order to come up with the annual output;
Annual output = 4.34 x 365 = 1584 kWh/year
It is important to note that the total area that a crystalline solar panel with a stand occupies is more than what the panels themselves occupy. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the space left between the panels as well. A panel that produces more than 37,792kWh/year requires a space of approximately 234m2 ,which is equivalent to 164/0.7. 0.7 is actually 70% and this is the effective area the PV panel occupies after deducting the space left between the panels.
Solar panels require maintenance in order to last longer and this is a bit of a challenge in UAE due to module soiling. There is a lot of dust in the region which accumulate on the solar panels’ surface, therefore reducing their output. This calls for exhaustive cleaning, sometimes several times a week, particularly for the case of larger installations. Therefore, when installing these systems, it is important to put them in a place that makes them easily accessible to enable regular cleaning. This is the single main kind of maintenance that solar panels require apart from regular checkups and monitoring to observe their performance. This can be carried out once after every few months. This means that solar panels can be maintained without other costs.
It is also possible to use the rated capacity to calculate the output of a solar panel. Every solar panel is built with a rated capacity, which is calculated in watts. A solar cell has a power capacity of 3.5-4 watts, although this value differs from one solar cell to another (Chiras, 2006). This formula is employed when using rated capacity to calculate the energy output of a solar panel.
According to Chiras (2006), Capacity *Peak Sun Hours * Effective Output % After Deducting Losses = Output (kwh/day)
In this case, the efficiency of the solar panel is not considered separately since it is included in the power capacity that a solar module contains. Take the example of a solar system of 2 kilowatt in the UAE. The energy output would be:
2 * 5.84 * 0.75 = 8.76 kwh/day
Therefore, its annual output would come to:
8.76 * 365 = 3197 kwh/year
It is important to calculate the capacity of a solar system by taking into account its load. For example, if a house burns 20 light bulbs of 100W each, the amount of power that these bulbs will require in order to light up totals to 2,000 watts. When these light bulbs are lit up for around 6 hours daily then the amount of energy needed to make this happen would be 6 hours *2 kilowatts = 12 kwh/day. When using a solar system specifically meant for only powering these light bulbs, the required load would be 12 kWh/day. After determining the load that the system needs to operate, it is possible to calculate the power capacity. In the United Arab Emirates, this figure would be:
12 kWh per day divided by 5.84 divided by 0.75 is 2.74 kilowatts
The power capacity is obtained by reversing the above process as the capacity obtained in this case determines the power to be generated. In UAE, each household needs to carry out a serious consideration in terms of cost and power demands so as to determine the suitable system. Additionally, homes are also required to calculate the correlation of cost and power generated, that is, cost ratios. This obtained using the graded power capacity of several solar panels available in the market and comparing it with the cost of each solar panel in AED. It is possible to obtain cost in Watt/Dirham. The following example can be used to illustrate the above scenario, say, a PV panel with 240 watt elements in terms of appraised power capability and goes for 5.5AED/ watt. The cost calculation of costs incurred would be as followed
5.5 * 240 = AED 1320
The power capacity obtained is very useful in working out the number of solar panels needed. Consider the case above in which 2.74kW was obtained, a system with 240w is endorsed which comes in rectangular shapes. Considerations are made such that the unit with the highest output and the lowest cost is obtained. The required number of units is calculated depending on the power output required. In this case, the number of units required is calculated below.
2740W divided by 240 watts which is 11.4 panels. This means that 12 solar panels are required for the whole process. From this statement, the cost of the PV panels can be established. A single panel will then cost
5.5 (AED/watt) x 240 (rated capacity of panels) = AED 1320
A single module will hence cost: AED 1320 x 12 (quantity of panels) = AED 15840
The power capacity required to install these panels would be 12 (quantity of panels) * 240W (which is the capacity of a single panel) = 2.88kW. This figure is a little higher compared to the 2.74 kW power capacity earlier on established for the electric bulbs to light. This is because the quantity of panels that were needed reached 25 after being rounded up to the nearest whole number.
Solar modules need to be placed in a large open area to allow sunlight to reach them. Using the size of each panel, the total area required for all the panels can be calculated. Consider the apex quadrangular solar module of 240 W discussed earlier. The stretch of this module is 1605mm (1.605 m) and its breadth is 909 mm (0.909m). The total area occupied by each is 1.605*0.909 which equals 1.46 square meters.
If a total of 12 panels of this kind are installed, they will occupy an area of: 1.46m2 x 12 = 17.52m2. It was mentioned earlier on that there needs to be space between panels especially in the case of polycrystalline panels since they require stands, and so this too has to be taken into consideration. Consequently, the total amount of space these panels would occupy can be arrived at by dividing the whole area by 0.7. In this case, this would be: 17.52m2 / 0.7 = 25m2. Therefore, in order to install these panels on their roofs in the United Arab Emirates, they require a space of 25m2 which is equivalent to 5 x 5m square. This is very convenient in the UAE due to the fact that the houses in this country are generally flat-roofed and would be very suitable solar installations.
There are various components that determine the total cost of purchasing and installing PV panels. However, the cost of buying the PV panels and batteries take up about 60% of the total cost as these are the most expensive components (Whitburn, n.d.). The cost of installing these systems only amounts to 13% of the total costs. Whitburn, n.d.). The rest of the components that incur costs include such things as wiring. The cost of these components may vary from one manufacturer to another and also depends on the size and type of a given component. The inverter is the cheapest component, although their prices also vary (Whitburn, n.d.).
Crystal-like solar modules are usually placed on stands meant to support them at the optimum height and angle. Each of stand costs approximately AED 350. Twelve solar panels using such a stand would cost AED 4200 (350*12). Other components needed in the solar system may include surge power protection, DC fuses and circuit breakers, which may cost up to AED 2500. Consumers are advised to select the best accumulators(battery) for storing reserves of energy generated. Their capacity is measured in voltage and ampere hours. The suggested storing capacity for a battery is double the capacity of the expected load. The reason for this is the fluctuation in the amount generated and batteries are required to stabilize the flow. Therefore, the capacity of battery should allow them to stand many hours of accumulating the power generated. The formula below can be used to determine the capacity of a battery.
Total watt hours * autonomy ( this is the additional storage required in case of bad weather and the autonomy for UAE is normally 1 day) 0.7 ( this is the battery capacity loss after the initial year) * 0.6 (this is the reserve capacity after a year) . Therefore, a 2.88 kW panel system would require:
(12000 Wh/day x 1) / (0.7 * 0.6) = 12000/0.42 which is equivalent to 28571.43 Wh storage. This is hence the minimum amount of battery storage required. The amount of ampere-hours needed for battery storage can be calculated by dividing the storage in watt-hours by the voltage: 28571.43/12 = 2380.95AH. This means that 12V batteries require 2380.95AH and so: 2380.95/ 200 (AH of single battery) = 12 batteries. A single battery costs AED 1100 meaning 12 batteries would cost 12 x AED 1100 = AED 13200.
The installation costs of various solar panels in the United Arab Emirates vary depending on the service provider and the duration of time taken to install the systems. Normally, installations can be done within a few days. However, they are quite expensive. For example, the total cost of the different components of the solar panel cost approximately AED 41,870. A service provider can be paid approximately AED 6,000 for installation bringing the total cost to approximately AED 47,870.
Problems Associated with Installing Solar Panels in Households in the UAE
Although solar panels and their components are designed to last for between 25-30 years when they are properly designed and maintained, there are times when some of these components fail (Hantula, 2010). This is particularly the case when related to batteries. This poses a huge threat to off-grid systems because the majority of the components are related to direct current (DC). Examples include direct current breakers and direct current fuse designed to protect batteries among others. These components are normally hard to come by and pose a great challenge if a particular component such as the fuse fails and has to be specially procured. On-grid constituents are less likely to exhibit this problem since the inverter the DC current generated into alternating current (AC). The United Arab Emirates has elevated temperatures, which is the leading course for malfunctioning of most of these components. Therefore, the battery life of solar systems in the UAE drops considerably and do not last more than 3 years, although they are meant to last 4-5 years (Hantula, 2010). This is especially when these systems are exposed to sunlight.
There are times when the inverters malfunction too. On-grid inverters are able to properly function when the grid supplies them with quality input. They are designed in such a way that the AC output they produce is coordinated with the one from the grid. This is possible through analyzing various elements such as the frequency, voltage and also distortion among others and uses these to produce its own output. Therefore, if the output provided by the mains cannot achieve these requirements, this leads to the automatic malfunction of the inverter. In case the electricity fails to meet the parameters set by the European Union where the inverters are imported from, then the inverters in these areas of UAE are switched off to avoid electrocution (Harder & MacDonald Gibson, 2011). The remedy for this is opting for inverters that have a greater level of tolerance. Cheap inverters can malfunction after a few months, yet the expensive and reliable ones can function for as many as10 years.
The major challenge that most households face in the UAE with regard to solar panels is the high initial cost. Purchasing the system and having it installed is quite expensive and this may prevent some households from enjoying the benefits associated with solar energy. Although the government has put in place tax initiatives and tax subsidies in addition to investing in large projects in order to encourage the use of solar panels, the initial cost is still significantly high. Installation of solar panels leads to a reduction in electricity bills and with time, the consumer is able to recover the initial amount spent on buying and installing these systems. However, this can take years. Many other factors reduce the efficiency of solar panels as well as other components. Elevated temperatures is the major one as discussed earlier. Deviation of temperature from the optimum reduces the efficiency of the system. Components in the UAE are mostly affected by very high temperatures in the summer.
Comparison between Solar Power and Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels consists of coal, petroleum and natural gas. These form an important part of almost every country’s energy. In 2012, it was reported that fossil fuel made up more than 80% of the total percentage of energy used in the United States (Jordan, 2014). As important as fossil fuels are, they have their shortcomings which have led countries resort to various forms of renewable energy including solar power. Both solar power and fossil fuels have important roles to play and they can be applied in specific situations.
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Energy density describes the quantity of energy that can be produced by a square meter of a source or a fuel. There are numerous energy sources and as are the means of arriving at their energy densities. However, many researchers have established that fossil fuels have more energy density that solar sources. This has been given as the reason for why many machines and vehicles run on fossil fuels and not solar energy. Gasoline on the other hand contain higher amounts of energy compared to what solar panels can supply to vehicles. Fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas have a greater energy density compared to the solar energy as explained earlier on. However, these three have to be extracted from the ground, a process that is very expensive and can even be dangerous. However, these fossil fuels can be used whenever the need arises after they have been mined or extracted. Additionally, fossil fuels can be used at any time compared to solar energy, which can only be used when there is sunlight. People prefer a source of energy that can be used at any time. Cloudy weather and winter seasons results in limited amounts of solar power.
Fossil fuels are limited, unlike solar energy which is in abundance. Fossil fuels can take millions of years to develop but can be utilized in only a matter of minutes (Jordan, 2014). In addition, the higher levels of fossil fuels consumed, the less there is of ground reserves. Solar energy on the other hand is available for the subsequent 4-5 billion years because it is renewable (Jordan, 2014). Therefore, the fact that a consumer used their solar panel yesterday does not mean there is less energy to harness the next day.
Solar panels results in a low level of emissions compared to fossil fuels. There are some toxic compounds normally used during the manufacturing and fabrication of solar energy systems. However, these have a very small negative impact on the environment. The refinement of fossil fuels on the other hand involves combustion that leads to production of environmental toxins. In addition to that, there is a high level of emissions produced in the process of collecting and transporting fossil fuels. Large quantities of carbon dioxide of up to 21.3 billion tons are also produced by fossil fuels yearly and this contributes to pollution, global warming and overall climate change (Hantula, 2010).
It is a bit difficult to compare the price of fossil fuel with that of solar panels due to the fact that different methods are used in generating energy from them. The solar systems cost more and requires the consumer to pay a substantial initial cost for purchasing and installation of components. However, the sunlight energy source is free and the systems do not require much maintenance, therefore making their costs less than that of fossil fuels. Although the price for fossil fuel plants per megawatt is lower, they always need fuel. When all these factors are taken into account for both fossil fuels and solar panel, the basic costs required for solar power generation are about twice or three times the price of fossil fuel plants. In some regions, the price of solar energy is the same as that of fossil fuel energy after including distribution costs and particular local variables. However, the costs of solar energy and solar panels in particular, are expected to drop to levels lower than that of fossil fuel in future.
Comparison between Solar Panels in New Green Buildings and Old Non- Environmentally Friendly Buildings
There are many definitions of green buildings and descriptions for the role they play. Most of the time, a green building is referred to as a building that is “outstandingly better” than the rest of the buildings or “not as bad” in terms of impacting the environment negatively. Generally, a green building is one that is designed to achieve a cleaner environment in addition to efficiently using resources such as water, land and energy in the least disruptive manner (Jordan, 2014). There is a misconception that green buildings are more expensive than standard ones. Although most of the materials used in green buildings are a bit expensive by comparison, the strategies and technologies employed in green buildings cost either an equal amount or less than their counterparts. Therefore, it is possible to develop green building using the same amount of money as that of a conventional building.
Green buildings have several benefits over standard buildings, and this is why these buildings are on the rise. These benefits are economic, social and environmental. Green buildings contribute towards the reduction of emissions. Electricity generated through fossil fuels has led to an increase in pollution and global warming over the years. This has led to issues like smog and acid rain, which are dangerous to the public health. This is why there is a need for initiatives that control or reduce the amount of emissions. Green buildings are more effective at achieving this compared to conventional buildings. This is possible due to the various techniques put in place such as day lighting and solar power.
Experts claim that using solar panels on green buildings increase the ability of the photovoltaic systems in producing clean renewable solar energy. This is possible through the use of green roofs, which offer large areas for installation of PV and may have less dust soiling panels. Although solar panels on conventional buildings can still provide this renewable solar power, it is not as clean as that produced by green buildings. This efficient renewable solar power in turn lowers the electric bill. Owners of solar panels on green roofs can take advantage of the social, economic and environmental effects associated with this endeavor.
Studies carried out reveal that green buildings increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells (Whitburn, n.d.). A green roof is made up of soil and plants, and these plants experience evaporation which result in keeping the rooftop cooler. The result is that the PV cells function at the most optimum conditions possible. The solar panels mounted on green rooftops therefore generate a larger amount of energy compared to the ones mounted on standard buildings. The rate of efficiency goes up by 16% more than their counterparts without green roofs (Jordan, 2014). This is particularly effective during summer when temperatures are high. In addition, the vegetation on green roofs serve to get rid of pollutants and dust that exist in the air which is normally a hindrance to a solar cell’s capacity to generate electricity. When this is taken care of, owners of solar panels on green buildings enjoy more efficient PV systems translating to more electricity.
Research shows that people who install solar panels onto their green buildings are more likely save money compared to those who install them onto standard buildings. Furthermore, these green buildings become a habitat for plants and birds, which is something standard buildings cannot achieve. The “heat island effect” refers to when urbanized areas become considerably warmer compared to the less developed surroundings. This effect normally results into an electric demand of between 5-10% higher in the entire community for cooling (Jordan, 2014). Owners of buildings can resort to green roofs in order to save money. A study conducted in 2012 revealed that green roofs can contribute to a 3.60 F cooling of indoor air during summer and this result into a 6% reduction in energy demand in a year (Jordan, 2014). This is due to the fact that green roofs hold an annual precipitation of between 50-80% (Jordan, 2014) . This significant amount of precipitation greatly reduces heating and air conditioning bills therefore saving building owners money. This is something that owners of conventional buildings cannot take advantage of.
Solar panels can be installed in both new green buildings and old conventional buildings due to the benefits associated with green roofs to both kinds of buildings. For example, they can both lead to a reduction in electric bills and production of renewable solar energy. People living in both kinds of buildings can enjoy all the benefits associated with solar panels and harnessing of solar energy. However, green buildings have some advantages over standard buildings with regard to installation of solar panels. For example, unlike standard buildings, green-friendly structure enable evaporation, which increases the efficiency of PV cells. When all factors are considered, solar panels are better mounted on green buildings due to the fact that they encourage conservation of the environment in terms of reducing emissions through significantly lowering the use of fossil fuel. They also lower the cost of energy.
The United Arab Emirates has displayed great determination in its effort to promote the use of renewable energy, especially when it comes to solar power. The government has invested in large scale systems and has hosted major international conferences aimed at promoting solar energy. This effect has trickled down to the consumers who have shown great interest in installing solar panels in their homes in order to enjoy the benefits it provides. The United Arab Emirates has an advantage over many countries since its solar irradiation levels is among the highest in the world. This enables it to produce higher amounts of solar energy per unit area.
Installing solar panels in households in the United Arab Emirates provides various benefits such as environmental conservation and reduced electric bills. There are some challenges that these households in the UAE face with regard to solar panel installation such as high initial costs of purchasing and installing the systems. However, subsidies and tax incentives are being introduced by the government to help attract investors in the solar power industry and therefore lower the costs. One of the great advantage about solar panels is the fact that they don’t require much maintenance or additional costs behind the initial purchase
It is therefore highly recommended that households in UAE install solar panel in order to enjoy the benefits associated with it. Technological development is ongoing and this means that cheap solar panels with higher efficiency will be achieved in the near future. As a result, households in UAE have a better chance to save more. What is necessary is finding ways to overcome the different challenges. For example, solar panels require a significant amount of space and this seems to be favored by the fact that most homes in UAE have open roofs. Solar energy is in abundance and this needs to be taken advantage of instead of going to waste. Due to lower maintenance cost and environmental sustainability, it is economically and environmentally viable for homes in UAE to adopt solar energy.