Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Dec 30

New Solar Technology Unveiled at Robins Air Force Base

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Solar Air Force Base Robins has time and again been considered as a pioneer in testing alternative energy technologies. Recently they have installed a solar panel which is a matter of curiosity. Their installed solar panel assumes the dimensions of a drive-in-movie screen. It is the shining example of the state-of-the-art technology. At peak hour it generates 25 kilowatts of electricity.

Around $434,000 was invested to construct this solar panel and it was made possible by using special congressional funding for renewable energy sources. The Air Force’s Advanced Power Technology Office installed this solar panel. The office is situated at Robins. Robert David is an engineering supervisor and head of the APTO office. According to him the solar panel is the first of its kind in the Southeast.

What make this solar panel matchless are its sensors. The sensor technology tracks the sun automatically. Its concentrated photovoltaic array technology amplifies the sun’s power 500 to 1,000 times. For accomplishing the above feat they have taken help of the magnifying glasses. It is interesting to know that it essentially uses the similar know-how that little boys use to kill ants. This solar panel is able to trap 38 percent of the energy of sunlight. Scott Slyfield, APTO program manager says, If that sounds low, consider that earlier solar panels captured only about eight percent of the sun’s energy.”

The remunerations related with this technology are many. These solar panels have an estimated life of 25 years and it will keep on generating the 25 kilowatts of electricity. Consider this amount of that it produces will practically be free, aside from a minimal electricity nearly cost free except the money involved in the maintenance work. However this electricity will still be expensive compared to that generated by fossil fuels. But this price front can be tackled if the Air Force decides to purchase solar panels on a larger scale. This will help in reducing the upfront cost. If you erect a solar farm it will be easy on any organization’s pocket.

Currently the power generated by this solar panel will be utilized directly by the base power grid. But they have plans to compensate that power used by a newly-installed hydrogen fuel production/refueling station.

The station is near the solar panel. This hydrogen power station generates 10 kilograms of hydrogen per day using water. This clean and green hydrogen is used to fuel two base forklifts with hydrogen fuel cells. The APTO office is counting on the Congressional funding then the solar panel and hydrogen station would make a good dual project.

Currently the solar panel is installed for a one year trial basis. The base can decide to keep it after that year. The operational aspect of the solar panel is being taken care of by a computer. This solar panel can boast of its own weather station. If the weather is windy the panel will automatically stow, returning to a flat position. This position of panel will help it in protecting itself. It will even track the sun and produce energy, albeit at a lower level, on a cloudy day.

  • Clint LeRoy

    That array is built using an Australians product called SunCubes. Robins just put the suncubes in a big rectangle and called it his!

  • Jack Roesler

    With perhaps 2000 peak hours of generating time, that amounts to 50,000 kwhrs/yr. At 7 cents/kwhr, that’s $3500/yr. That’s a far cry from the installed cost. I wonder how much electricity this system will produce per year, in total?

  • Jim Hall

    It’s great to see so many projects such as this coming on line. Living in Hawaii where it’s bright and sunny on a later December day makes you have to wonder why we seem to drag our feet and make it so hard to put projects in place where they are most needed, so usable and everyone is supposedly behind going in these directions.

  • rewinn

    Some things will work, some won’t; the important thing is to keep trying. This is a fine effort; let’s hope it works but if it doesn’t, we’ve learned something and the next round will be better.

    America should be #1 in solar technology both as a matter of pride and of national security!

  • science guru

    At a cost of $434,000 to install this array divided by 25 kilowatts (that’s 25,000 watts), This equals $17.36 per installed watt. The average ground mounted, non-tracking installation that would produce the same amount of power with no moving parts, would cost about $6.00 or $7.00 per installed watt. This project has cost at least 2 and a half times, or 250% what it would normally cost to install a solar array. How is this anything new or newsworthy? The only thing newsworthy is our government spending money in the wrong way again. I could have done this installation at nearly one third the cost.

    Show me someone doing a large array at $2.00, $3.00 or $4.00 a watt and you will have my attention. At $17.36 per watt this is only bad news.

  • Simmo

    My local Council has just installed a 33 kW mains connected conventional photovoltaic system for $230,000 Australian dollars (about $200,000 US Dollars). You can read the info and view the outputs here:

    If it were tracking the sun it’d probably get 20-30% more output, but nonetheless the graphs show that its output is impressive in its first 2 months of operation. One would expect a concentrating solar system to outperform this installation substantially, particularly in cost, but it would appear not. Even the footprint is not very impressive compared to conventional (when one takes the shaded ground area into account and the potential density of similar systems in the same area).

    If the $434K included the Hydro station then it’s still extremely expensive.

  • James P. Turpin

    I think that better energy density might be achieved by combining this type of array with wind power turbines mounted on top of it. The solar array could help maintain a lower center of gravity for the wind power array. During the morning and evening, when the wind is often highest and the solar power is nearly vertical, the solar array could funnel wind into the turbine.

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