For the first time solar panels used in space in 1958, the US and the USSR equip their satellites. In the 1970s, the production cost dropped, and technology down to Earth. Batteries were used on the Railways, antennas, microwave communication and remote from “civilization” homes.

In the early 2000s, the total capacity of solar power plants in the world exceeded gigawatts, and by 2016, the world consumption of electrical power generated through solar batteries, amounted to 305 GW (for comparison, in 2010 there were 50 GW). Today this value only increases.

Grow big

Energy in General is gradually moving toward a distributed model. Consumers self-build local energy sources for their own needs and send surplus electricity to the grid. According to some estimates, by 2020, 20% of all electricity will be supplied to global network from local settings, and by 2030 this figure will rise to 30%.

Solar industry, by contrast, tends to centralization. Solar plant — a large-scale field from large solar panels, stretching for several kilometers. So, farm in the Negev desert with a capacity of 300 MW being built by Israel, will occupy an area of 4 km2, and frozen 200-gigawatt solar power plant in Saudi Arabia was placed on a thousand square kilometers.

The desire to “gigantically” has its advantages: one major station provides electricity from renewable sources a large number of consumers. However, this approach has also led to a number of difficulties.

Little space

At first glance, the construction of solar parks is logical, but because of the scale of the station “seal” a giant territory. Of course, countries such as Saudi Arabia, have at their disposal a desert, and it is one conversation, but in the case of China or India, the picture changes. These States could use the area occupied by solar plants, much more efficient.

In Russia to 2024 will be commissioning 1.75 GW of solar power plants. As a result, we will receive thousands of hectares of land involved cumbersome structures weighing more than 63 thousand tons. By the way, their disposal — an additional problem for the industry.

A solution is to approach with the placement of solar panels on the roofs of houses and other urban buildings. So you don’t have to spend money on the erection of heavy metal structures for solar modules, plus the opportunity to save on cable, as it does not need to pull up to the substation. To build solar parks is only when the last square meter of the roof.

In Russia, more than 70% of the buildings flat roof, while among these buildings not only houses, but also hundreds of hypermarkets, DIY stores and major shopping centers. With regard to the technical buildings of each of these stores are on average a few thousand square meters of the roof, the country is tens of millions of square meters that can accommodate solar power. For hundreds of hypermarkets total power stations will exceed 100 MW, which is comparable with the power of a full gas turbine. However, in this case, you do not have to pay for fuel, power loss and costly maintenance of heavy equipment.

Similar projects are already being implemented. According industry Association of solar energy (SEIA) in the USA for the year 2018, the business equips your office and commercial spaces solar panels, and their total capacity has already exceeded 2.5 GW. So the company Chronar introduces a 60-kilowatt station on the roof of its headquarters in new Jersey, and Apple has partnered with Daini Denryoku to install more than 300 solar systems on the roof of an office building in Japan, and will generate 18 thousand MW·h annually.

Inefficient materials

Development of facade placement of solar panels hamper and technological features of the specialized devices. The first commercial modules consisted of glass and silicon cells between them, aluminum frame and economatica. The development of gigawatt farms pulled a producers of aluminium, glass and accessories. They formed clumsy industry poorly receptive to technological innovation. Because of this design the solar panels did not significantly changed over the last 30 years.

But today, the case moved from the dead point: there are new composite materials and polymer solar cells. They are similar to classical silicon, but the main advantage of composite panels is a low cost, and ease and flexibility. In the result, it can be placed on a variety of surfaces. An example might be a train operating solely on solar batteries. On December 16 last year, this team went out on the route with a length of three kilometers in Australia. Flexible panels placed on the roof of the car and the intermediate stations where the train may additionally recharge.

The company’s mPower Technology and Sandia a few years ago presented Dragon SCALE technology — solar panels, flexible and thin as paper. “Scales” it is possible to wrap the drainage pipe, various spacers, pillars and even trees.

Complex designs

Placing the classic solar installation on municipal structures, it is necessary to make allowance for stability of the system is to take into account the ballast to the panel blew. According to European norms weight can reach 180 kilograms per m2. In the design of roofs such indicators are rarely laid, there is a risk of damage to the roof.

The solution to the problem is a large number of companies and research organizations. For example, a team of engineers from Georgia Institute of Technology and Chongqing University has introduced a special type of fabric material that generates electricity from the sun and wind at the same time. Developers used industrial textile loom to weave polymer fiber with a turbo-electric nanogenerators. According to the authors of the technology, “solar cloth” can be used to create curtains, awnings or banners.

Another example is the initiative by Elon musk. It is suggested to incorporate the solar modules into the roof tiles. Technology Solar Roof can withstand large hailstones fall at speeds up to 160 km/h and stylized clay. Tile approach has the right to life, but still has to overcome a number of difficulties. A high percentage of them non-productive area and the large number of connectors and connections. Given that the roof periodically have to clean the ice, it is likely to damage the installation.

What’s next

The number of solar power plants is constantly growing. But to become truly competitive, plants must be more efficient and more convenient to existing analogs. To achieve this will help the new materials and designs that are quite versatile and provide more flexibility from the point of view of form and possibilities for the location. Only not to miss such opportunities and to use already ready and available to accommodate installations of buildings.

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