When most people think of energy production, they tend to think of the ticking clock of fossil fuels or the unfathomable power of nuclear energy. Renewable and sustainable options seem like promising alternatives, but perhaps appear unlikely to fill the void left behind from the polluting fossil giants of the past.
The reality is that certain forms of these clean energies have recently become firmly established and the general public may not have noticed that in terms of energy production, times have already changed.
There are numerous solar power plants, solar farms and other forms of solar technology spread across the globe, which are quietly working away and providing an ever increasing percentage of the planet’s energy demands. Let’s take a look at some of the world’s shining examples of solar innovation.
First up on our list is Crimea’s Perovo Solar Park. With a capacity of 100 MWp, this photovoltaic (or PV) power station is one of the global heavyweights and in 2012 it was the world’s largest, but has since been overtaken. It is comprised of 440,000 solar panels and is owned by Activ Solar. Crimea falls under Ukrainian law and the Ukraine have a very high level of government feed-in tariff at ˆ0.46 per kilowatt hour, which is fixed until 2030. The region is also an ideal location for such a solar energy installation as it receives a solar radiation intensity similar to Spain or Italy. The solar park was constructed in just seven months and can produce enough clean electricity to meet the demands of Simferopol, the nearby capital city of Crimea.
Wilburton Solar Farm
Wilburton, United Kingdom
This solar farm was installed in 2011 and generates 24.3 MWp of clean electricity - enough to power around 6,770 local homes. It is comprised of 95,728 low-profile solar panels, surrounded by hedgerows, which ensure that the site remains visibly discreet to local residents. Set in a beautiful rural location, the area has seen a large increase in local wildlife populations, including dragonflies, butterflies, wild hares, many species of birds, repopulated badger setts and most notably in the numbers of the Grey Partridge, which is a Red List species. The alternative energy scheme is also expected to save around 55,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over its 25 year lifespan, when compared against traditional methods of energy generation. A worthy reminder that the advantages of solar energy are not only financial.
This innovative addition to our list was actually designed by the University of Arizona in 2009. Along with many other US Universities, they all took part in the Department of Energy’s ‘Solar Decathlon’ - a competition that challenges collegiate teams to design and build a solar powered house. The students involved wanted to design a house that could collect and reuse water, produce energy and also grow food. The solar panels automatically adjust position to maximise the sun’s potential and the overall beautiful and creative design earned a top ten finish in both the architecture and engineering contests. It is currently located in Tuscon, Arizona.
Somewhat of an anomaly on this list, Baltimore has introduced a new 100,000 pound solar powered water wheel, designed to collect the rubbish that runs from the city’s storm drains into the polluted harbour. The wheel, which also harnesses the current, has the ability to collect 50,000 pounds of waste products before being emptied. The wheel plays a central role in the Healthy Harbor Waterfront Partnership Initiative, which hopes to make the harbour water swimmable in under six years. Ultimately, the water wheel’s design stemmed from a noticeable reduction in local tourism - attributed to the unsightly state of the harbour, but whatever the incentive, it is certainly making waves.
Crewe, United Kingdom
Famous for their stunning Bentley vehicles, the Bentley Motors factory in Crewe is now home to another feat of engineering - the UK’s largest rooftop solar array. Comprised of 20,810 polysilicon modules and covering 3.45 hectares of unutilised roof space, the installation by Lightsource only took 3 months to complete, made no disruption to daily business and now has a capacity of 5MW. It is expected to generate 4206.1 MWh of clean electricity annually and when working at maximum efficiency, should provide the factory with 40% of its energy requirements, whilst reducing carbon dioxide usage by over 2,500 tonnes each year. A pioneering example that hopefully many other UK businesses will soon follow.
Freiburg Solar City
The German city of Freiburg is fast earning a reputation for being one of the most green in the world. After severe destruction in World War II, it was mainly rebuilt using energy saving methods. Nowadays, most of the city’s rooftops are covered with solar cells, including the local university. Located in the sunniest part of the country, Germany’s solar city has also invested heavily in wind turbines, trams and hydroelectric facilities, amongst other green initiatives.
Perhaps the real beauty of this solar site lies in the holistic approach to clean energy that the residents have willingly committed to.
With the recent Brazilian World Cup football fiasco, Brazil may perhaps not want their newly revamped stadium to even be mentioned, but the redesign of the Mineirão stadium is a performance that they can actually be very proud of.
The Mineirão is host to 6,000 rooftop solar panels, which can generate enough power to supply the equivalent of 1,200 homes. The panels provide 1,600 megawatt hours per year, which is more than enough to power all of the stadium’s electrical requirements, leaving the surplus energy available for consumers. The Mineirão does hold the title of the first fully solar powered World Cup stadium, although the solar inspiration originally came from a stadium in the aforementioned city of Freiburg. Host to many a beautiful game this year, the Mineirão is also fairly striking itself and demonstrates that renewable energy can even happily co-exist with one of the more extravagant industries of our time.
The recent evolution of renewable and sustainable energy has provided us and our children with a chance to escape the burden that has been fossil fuel reliance, which is something our generation should be incredibly proud of. It’s time to alter your perception and embrace the wonder of solar power.