In the race to improve photovoltaics, a generation source destined to occupy an increasing weight in the energy scheme, there are those who focus on improving its materials, cost, efficiency, versatility and design. And then there are those who ask themselves simpler a priori questions, but just as relevant: his position. This is the case of the Californian firm Sunstall, which some time ago asked itself an interesting question: What would happen if we installed the panels vertically?
It may sound outlandish, but it makes sense. Quite. Especially if we talk about the field of “agrovoltaics”, which aspires to combine the interests and opportunities offered by agriculture and photovoltaics. After all, why can’t a cabbage farm also be a solar farm, one that supplies green energy and helps curb the climate crisis that takes its toll on the farms themselves?
The problem is the ground. The crops need it. photovoltaicsalso.
In agrovoltaic farms it is not uncommon to see raised panels on fixed supports that leave the modules several meters high, enough so that cattle and tractors can circulate underneath or even take advantage of the land for plantations. There are other options, such as fixing them on greenhouses or even holding them with cables that allow the pieces to be moved.
To conquer the countryside… and beyond
Sunstall’s proposal wants to simplify the installation of the panels, changing the platforms that elevate them for supports that keep them “standing”. They have named their solution Sunzaun and it is based on two key pieces: vertical fastenings and bifacial modulescapable of generating energy on both sides.
In addition to taking advantage of their two ends, bifacial panels offer other interesting advantages, such as their greater durability —they are resistant to UV rays on both sides— and they reduce potential induced degradation (DIP) problems and balancing costs ( BOS). Companies have been making them for years.
Interesting Engineering points out that Sunzuan panels can be installed in areas with slopes of up to 15 degrees, withstand wind loads of up to 0.084 psi (pounds per square meter) and are already being used in a California warehouse. There, in a Somerset vineyard, 43 450-watt (W) modules have been arranged. Its design also allows you a greater margin when deciding where to place the panels, without having to be configured south facing.
Sunstall defends the benefits of his proposal and ensures that it can be advantageous even for the crops themselves, one of the main arguments of agrovoltaics: “Many thrive well or even better in partial shade, since UV stress for the plant is reduced. This also saves fertilizer and water.”
The Californian firm is not in any case The only one who has opted for vertical solar installations. At the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences they have also analyzed the impact of these systems, “upright” and oriented from west to east. His conclusion is that installations like this would favor the stabilization of the German network and the integration of photovoltaics with agriculture. The Japanese company Luxor Solar KK, the French TotalEnergies, or the University of Mälardalen, in Sweden, have also delved down this path.
The question of how to improve the installation of the panels, both inside and outside agricultural plantations or grazing lands, is not new either. Solutions have been proposed for greenhouses, with semi-transparent material, and there are even those who are convinced that the key to improving the attractiveness of photovoltaic 0 is to fix the plates directly on the ground.
From Sunstall they claim that their solution is just as interesting for other environments, beyond farms, in which it is necessary to divide spaces: “It combines the invention of bifacial modules with the primary or secondary use as barrier between highwaysproperties or whatever you can think of”.
Top Image: Sunzaun
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