Science

Can photovoltaics remain one of the main vectors of green energy?

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The summer of 2022 is the hottest and driest for many regions of France and Europe. Records are piling up, whether it’s temperature, drought or lack of water, not to mention hectares of forests burned. Climate change is undeniable. Therefore, the energy transition is essential, in particular the use of solar energy to decarbonize our activities. But does this warmer climate, despite optimal amounts of sunlight, have implications for this green technology?

Summer is far from over, but July has already broken records in France and Western Europe. In addition, an inter-ministerial crisis unit was activated in France on Friday due to water shortages: 93 departments are subject to water restrictions, of which 62 are considered “in crisis”, the alarm level is higher.

The effects of climate change are acutely felt, affecting all levels of ecosystems. To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the current momentum of sobriety, energy efficiency, development of renewable energy sources and electrification of energy uses (transport, heating, industry) must be accelerated. Solar energy motivates the development of future technologies that are always more efficient and successfully overcome defects, such as storing unused energy or stopping production when sunlight is not optimal – in bad weather, cloudy weather or at night.

Individual energy production can be a way for everyone to contribute to the fight against global warming, as suggested by ENGIE My Power. Indeed, a photovoltaic plant uses solar energy to produce green electricity from a renewable source. Thus, it does not jeopardize the reliability of energy supply, unlike fossil fuels, which are depleted. In addition, photovoltaic production does not emit greenhouse gases. It does not create pollution comparable to that of conventional production methods.

Energy self-sufficiency

The consumption of electricity that we have produced ourselves is possible. But let’s first go back to the photovoltaic effect, discovered by Becquerel in 1839 and implemented in photovoltaic cells, the small electronic components of solar cells.

The photons of sunlight transfer their energy to electrons in a semiconductor material (usually silicon). They move and create an electric current that is collected by a very thin metal mesh. Assembled in series and parallel and then protected by different layers of materials to form a photovoltaic module, these cells provide voltage and current. According to ADEME, depending on the photovoltaic technologies on the market, between 8 and 22% of solar energy can be converted into electricity using a photovoltaic module.

Then you should know that individual self-consumption consists in the consumption of all or part of the output produced. Thus, the photovoltaic installation is directly connected to the indoor electrical installation. This model has existed in France since the development of photovoltaics. Initially limited to isolated site installations, it was then applied to grid-connected installations in 1990. In 2000, surplus energy produced can be resold and reintroduced to the grid.

Therefore, according to this principle, ENGIE My Power offers a turnkey solar installation in individual self-consumption for a home or business. Provides the opportunity to consume green electricity generated by solar panels for user needs (heating, lighting, household appliances, hot water, etc.), with projects adapted to homes, through the installation of solar panels (see page » Solar Installation Diagram panels” for more information). Only 3 conditions are critical for participation in the ENGIE My Power program: the location of housing outside the built-up area of ​​France and more than 500 meters from monuments; roof characteristics – slope, orientation and surface -; and lack of shading on the surface for the location of solar panels.

Imbalance between heat and light during heatwaves

Instinctively, records of temperature, and therefore sunlight, lead one to believe that solar production is recorded, which is an environmental advantage over these climate change-related extremes. But it’s nothing.

Indeed, for the production of solar energy, the amount of sunlight, also called radiation, is more important than the amount of heat. Jamie Taylor of the University of Sheffield told the BBC: “It’s because of this balance between light and temperature that the half-hour peak power record always happens in April or May, because that’s when we have sunny but relatively cool weather.

Specifically, solar panels are tested at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. Above this temperature, no matter how bright the sun shines, efficiency starts to decline. The heat excites an excessive number of electrons in the panel, responsible for converting solar energy into electricity, which ultimately reduces the voltage generated by the panel and its efficiency. The impact is not minimal. According to CED Greentech, the leading supplier of solar panel equipment in the United States, high temperatures can reduce the efficiency of solar panels by 10 to 25 percent, even as energy demand is skyrocketing, especially for air conditioning. So the solar park will have to grow to meet grid demand and move away from fossil fuels and nuclear power plants, which are much more affected by rising temperatures.

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