Largest Farm To Grow Crops Under Solar Panels Proves To Be A Bumper Crop For Agrivoltaic Land Use
Agrivoltaics is a field of study thats blooming with knowledge: how to combine the harvesting of agriculture with solar energy in a way that augments the performance of both.
Exciting researchers, farmers, and solar businesses, alike, is the fact that when planting crops under solar panel arrays, the plants grow better and need less watering, while the panels produce more electricity.
In Boulder, Colorado, visit Jacks Solar Garden and you will likely see a man driving a tractor under rows of solar panels, with people tending, harvesting, or sowing in the nearby furrows. Jacks represents a dozen such projects in the USsome commercial and some only for research.
The man on the tractor is Byron Kominek. Following a career in both the Peace Corps and USAID, Kominek is now one of the most innovative farmers in the country. His 24-acre farm which used to harvest only alfalfa and hay was in his family for 50 years, after it was bought by his grandfather Jack, the namesake of the thriving solar garden.
After taking over the farm, he realized that it was losing moneyand the county wasnt keen on his solar-powered idea.
They said, lands for farming, so go farm it, Kominek told NPR. I said, well, we werent making any money, you all want to be 100% renewable at some point so how about we work together and sort this out.
What Can Be Run On A 1kw Solar Panel
Heres a quick infographic to give you a rough idea of what a 1kw solar panel array would be able to power simultaneously.
At first, this seems amazing, and it is, but there are some practical points for you to consider.
For example, a 1kw solar panel system will produce 1kw of electricity for a few hours a day, and only when its a clear sunny day.
Below is a chart showcasing the electricity output of a 1kW solar panel system over a summers day. You can see that 1kW is only generated at 12 pm when the sun is at its strongest:
If you plan to go completely off-grid and rely entirely on your own source of electricity, Id recommend investing in a larger solar kit setup, such as a 3 5 kW solar panel kit.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need
Choosing the right solar system size for you depends on a few things where your house is located, how much electricity your home uses per year and the local price of electricity from your utility. Before you order, we will show you the system size that is expected to save you the most money based on your inputs. You may decide to choose a different size if you expect your electricity usage to change.
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What Does Solar System Size Mean Exactly
In the solar industry, the term solar system size is used to describe a solar panel systems capacity to produce electricity.
A solar panel system sized 300 watts is one that can produce 300 watts of electricity, while a system sized 6 kilowatt solar system will produce 6000 watts – under standard conditions.
Lets break down the key terms used here:
- Standard conditions: These are the specific conditions required for solar panels to perform at full capacity, or peak output. The solar cells should have exactly 1000 watts of sunlight per square meter shining on them, and they should be operating at a consistent temperature of 77F° . These specific conditions, recreated in a lab, are technically called Standard Test Conditions .
- Watts: Watts are a unit of measuring electric output. When we are discussing solar panel or solar system size, we are referring to watts of Direct Current electrical output. .
Now that you know these terms, solar panel spec sheets and solar system quotes will make more sense.
For instance, youll see a solar panel described as rated 300 watts of DC output at STC in laymans terms, wed call it a 300-watt panel. And when we put 20 panels with this wattage together to create a solar system, we get a solar system thats 6 kilowatts in size!
Now that we know what the term solar system size measures, lets compare the three methods we can use to calculate it.
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How Many Solar Panels Will I Need
In general, if were going on the national average of 11,000 kWh of electricity used annually, and use 250 watt solar panels, we can estimate that the average home will need about 28 to 34 panels to generate enough solar energy to power the home.
How big are these solar panels? Physically speaking, the panels are about 65 inches by 39 inches for residential installations and they weigh about 40 pounds per panel. Solar panels used for commercial sites are a little bigger, but thats because commercial buildings are usually larger and can contain the size of the panels. Residential panels are smaller in size and weight because they are mainly designed for a home roof, which would need to be able to bear the weight and size of the panels themselves.
Each panel will typically contain about 60 solar cells. These solar cells are what convert the sunlight into direct current electricity. The photons from the sun react with electrons released in the solar cells to generate electricity. Something called an inverter, which is part of your solar system, will then take this direct current electricity and convert it into alternating current electricity, the type of electricity needed to power your home appliances.
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How Big Are Solar Panels
The standard sized panel used on a residential solar project is 65 inches by 39 inches or a little bigger than 5 feet by 3 feet . The exact size varies by manufacturer, but this is a common or safe measurement to use in your calculations of how many solar panels will fit on your roof.
Solar panels installed on homes are generally made up of 60 photovoltaic solar cells, arranged in a 10 x 6 manner.
For a commercial solar application, solar panels are normally a bit bigger, measuring 78 inches by 39 inches or 21.125 square feet.
Solar panels installed on businesses or solar farms are made up of 72 PV solar cells which allows them to generate more energy.
The Efficiency Of Solar Cells
The efficiency of a solar panel is the most important element that determines the output power and energy you will receive. Therefore, efficiency acutely affects the size of a solar panel and the power output that solar panels emit.
The concept of efficiency can be explained with the help of a simple expression. Take a look at it:
In the above-given formula, Pmp refers to the maximum powerpoint. Im refers to the incident isolation on the module, and Am refers to the module area.
To simplify this when we increase the efficiency of a solar panel, the size or area will be reduced if we want to obtain the same power output, i.e., the Pmp.
It is no secret that the resultant efficiency depends on the type of technology used in the device. The commonly used monocrystalline solar panels can provide a total efficiency value between 20% and 22%. Solar panels by Panasonic and LG are known to feature this kind of efficiency.
Various solar cells have different efficiencies
Providers like Sunpower manufacture solar panels with a total efficiency of 22%. On the other hand, polycrystalline solar panels provide us with an efficiency of 17-18%. So, the final power outputs are also dependent on the kind of technology and the model of solar panels you use.
This limitation means that the extent to which we can reduce a singular P-N junction solar panel is restricted. At this point, it is important to note that this efficiency value of 33.7% has been exceeded in laboratories in various tests.
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The High Cost Of Solar Trash
The industrys current circular capacity is woefully unprepared for the deluge of waste that is likely to come. The financial incentive to invest in recycling has never been very strong in solar. While panels contain small amounts of valuable materials such as silver, they are mostly made of glass, an extremely low-value material. The long lifespan of solar panels also serves to disincentivize innovation in this area.
As a result, solars production boom has left its recycling infrastructure in the dust. To give you some indication, First Solar is the sole U.S. panel manufacturer we know of with an up-and-running recycling initiative, which only applies to the companys own products at a global capacity of two million panels per year. With the current capacity, it costs an estimated $20-30 to recycle one panel. Sending that same panel to a landfill would cost a mere $1-2.
The direct cost of recycling is only part of the end-of-life burden, however. Panels are delicate, bulky pieces of equipment usually installed on rooftops in the residential context. Specialized labor is required to detach and remove them, lest they shatter to smithereens before they make it onto the truck. In addition, some governments may classify solar panels as hazardous waste, due to the small amounts of heavy metals they contain. This classification carries with it a string of expensive restrictions hazardous waste can only be transported at designated times and via select routes, etc.
Solar Panels For Commercial Businesses
For businesses, solar panels might represent an environmental good or a financial strategy.
Whatever the reason could be, solar panels are a great move for all sizes of businesses.
Just as in residential cases, the size dimension of your system will be determined by the same factors listed in the how much power do I need section. And the size of solar panels for commercial businesses are just the same as the ones we mentioned above.
Nonetheless, since businesses require on average more power than homes, the typically used solar panel size in businesses is 72-cells size or more, like that of 96-cells.
The difference lies in the size of the solar panel array, given that the power demand for commercial businesses is higher than for residential use.
The figure below illustrates an approximation of that comparison.
An average home fits its energy needs with systems of around 6 kW or 7 kW. Businesses will require larger systems. In this case, expect to occupy a larger rooftop surface to cover your companys energy needs.
If you install a 6 kW system with, say, 20 average-sized solar panels, expect to occupy a surface of 27 ft. wide by 13 ft. long on your rooftop.
The table below shows a rough idea of the common size of solar panels for commercial businesses and the expected price range
Common system sizes for commercial businesses and expected price range.
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Should You Buy A Solar Battery
If you want your solar PV system to pretty much cover all of your energy needs, youll also require a solar battery.
If you dont use solar-generated electricity immediately after it is created, then it will go back into the grid. Homeowners with solar panels need to be in their house during the daytime in order to use their solar energy, or else it will go to waste.
However, with a solar battery, you can store up all the solar energy that doesnt get used. Then, once youre back home in the evenings and the sun has gone down, you can still power all your appliances with solar energy. Whats more, electricity from the grid is even more expensive in the evenings when demand is higher, so youre dodging the priciest time for grid power.
You can find out more in our complete guide to solar batteries, which includes information about typical costs, pros and cons, and the best models on the market. Naturally, its the biggest batteries that are most capable of taking you entirely off-grid, such as the Tesla Powerwall 2.0 or the Sonnen Batterie eco .
How Big Is A Residential Solar Panel
Residential solar panels are generally designed to produce between 300 and 400 watts each. And even though some are more efficient than others, the dimensions and areas of residential solar panels are pretty much standard.
In general, the length of residential solar panels is usually between 65 inches and 79 inches , their width is between 39 and 41 inches . The area of a residential solar panel is between 18 ft² and 22 ft².
The following section explains the different types of residential solar panels and their dimensions.
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Solar Panels : Understanding Module Size And Weight
Solar panels come in a range of sizes and weights, depending on the manufacturer. However, most brands of photovoltaic modules have similar measurements.
But unless youve examined them up close, it can be difficult to understand solar panel size and weight. Before planning a photovoltaic installation, do a little sleuthing to determine whether your rooftop can support PV modules.
Why Are Solar Panels Rectangular In Shape
Solar panels are rectangular in shape, the panels themselves are referred to as modules and each module contains a series of connected solar cells. The solar cells can be thought of as mini solar panels in themselves, connected together they create a higher power output. The cells are then encapsulated in a weatherproof casing with a glass front panel to allow the light to hit the surface of the silicon cells.
Solar panels tend to be rectangular in shape as that is the most efficient and practical shape for the purpose. It allows for easier manufacture, easier handling and installation and makes it easier to fit the greatest amount of panels on any available roof space. Many of the reasons for the shape of the panels are the same for windows that tend to have similar sizes and aspects.
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What Is The Average Size Of A Solar Panel
The average solar panel size is 77 × 39 inches or 65 × 39 inches depending on whether they are for commercial or residential use. The size of an average solar panel is dependent on the number of cells encapsulated in it and the panels application. Understanding panel sizes can be important from the point of view of selecting sizes based on roof-space and the customer type .
Solar Energy is arguably the most versatile of all energy sources. There are one-inch solar strips powering calculators, and there are hundreds of acres of a solar plant powering several towns. It can be used for any size of application. Naturally, it is neither easy nor wise to manufacture a single panel covering an entire rooftop or several acres of land. Thus, the need for the manufacturing of panels in different sizes.
Will Panels Keep Getting More Powerful
There are two primary ways to make solar panels more powerful: increase their efficiency or increase their physical size. The most efficient solar panels available to the residential market max out at about 23 percent. For a standard residential-size panel, that means topping out at 425 watts. For every half percentage point or so that a panel efficiency increases, the power rating increases by about 10 watts. Already, this level of efficiency would have been unthinkable in solar panels just five years ago if residential panels were to increase in efficiency by another 5 percentage points to 28 percent, that would likely produce a 525-watt panel or so.
Alternatively, solar panels could continue to move from 60 cells to 72 cells and beyond, making larger and larger panels that physically occupy more space. While that would succeed in making higher power solar panels, it would also lead to system design or integration issues with larger and heavier modules.
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Standard Solar Panel Dimensions
Standard solar panels come in two common configurations: 60-cell and 72-cell.
An individual solar cell is a 6 x 6 square. 60-cell panels are laid out in a 6×10 grid. 72-cell panels are laid out in a 6×12 grid, making them about a foot taller.
- 60-cell panels: 39 x 66
- 72-cell panels: 39 x 77
These are the standard solar panel sizes for most residential and commercial installations, give or take an inch on either side.
There are other panel size configurations on the market, but they are much less common..
However, the standard 60-cell and 72-cell panel sizes are by far the most common in the industry.
Can Your Roof Handle Solar Panels
To determine if your rooftop has adequate structural support for PV panels, you must consider the weight load of the entire photovoltaic system.
EnergySage, an online solar information resource, says that the total weight load of the average photovoltaic system including the PV modules, mounting racks and other hardware components is about 3 to 4 pounds per square foot.
Both residential and commercial roofs are designed to handle much more weight than that, at least 20 pounds per square foot. However, older roofs and those that have sustained prior damage may not have the necessary structural support for solar panels.
A professional photovoltaic contractor can often determine if a rooftop is capable of supporting PV panels. But solar contractors are not roofing experts, and they cannot guarantee that a roof is structurally sound. If youre at all concerned about the integrity of your roof, its imperative that you schedule an evaluation from a professional roofer or structural engineer.
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