Vertical solar panels could save farm land and transform agriculture
Sunstall, a California-based company, has launched a vertical solar panel, Sunzaun, which can be used in existing fields and arable lands without sacrificing them for clean green energy. The installation is much like conventional solar systems, just that the system uses bifacial solar modules, and the entire array stands like a boundary wall in the field.
As countries look to move away from fossil fuels, the interest in solar energy has increased in recent years. Countries in Europe facing harsh winters are also finding new ways of tapping into solar energy, such as installing solar panels at high altitudes. In such a scenario, dedicating large swathes of agricultural lands to build solar farms might seem like overkill. This is where the field of agrivoltaics has helped by dual purposing available land.
Vertical solar panels
Even though agrivoltaics is a relatively new field, it has already set some norms, like the use of elevated platforms for mounting solar panels. This allows the land to be used for growing crops while shielding it from the harsh sun and reducing the water required to cultivate a crop.
This is a useful concept but increases the cost of installation. Sunzuan's vertical solar panels break this norm by making it simpler to install solar panels since no elevated platforms need to be built. The vertical panels can be lined up wherever it is convenient to place them and can even be installed with a slope of up to 15 degrees.
Sunzuan's ingenuity also lies in the use of bifacial solar modules in its design which negates the need to install the panels in a south-facing configuration. Conventionally, solar panels are installed facing true south in the northern hemisphere to ensure they receive direct sunlight throughout the day. Since the vertical panels use bifacial modules, they can be lined facing east-west and still get the job done.
Recent studies have shown that installing bifacial modules in an east-west configuration can produce the same amount of electricity as a south-facing solar panel. More importantly, the vertical panel design isn't restricted to agricultural fields. It can be lined up along the length of highways, railroads, fences, or even balconies in residential areas.
The panels can bear wind loads of up to 0.084 psi and are currently in the process of obtaining their UL2703 certification, which assures the safety performance of the modules and the system.
Sunzuan's vertical system with 43 panels is currently installed at a winery in California and produces 23kW of power.
Geothermal energy is notorious for the high costs of installation. A woman-led energy company is working to change these notions and reduce energy bills.