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Solar Power

Paneles solares

Solar power is a renewable energy source which is obtained by harnessing the electromagnetic radiationfrom theSunIt is, therefore, an inexhaustible source of energy. This solar radiation varies throughout the year and throughout the day depending on the location and the meteorological conditions.

Solar radiation can be harnessed actively —i.e. to produce electricity or heat, using a variety of technologies—or passively, making use of bioclimatic architecture (building orientation, use of materials with heat gains, natural ventilation, etc.). The most common means of harnessing solar radiation are active. Of these, the most important, in generic terms, are solar photovoltaic power and solar thermal energy.

Photovoltaic

Essentially solar photovoltaic power involves harnessing solar radiation using collectors that contain photovoltaic cells that are capable of generating a direct current. This electricity is subsequently adapted to the specific requirements of power lines for use in different sectors. The array of photovoltaic cells, set out in a logical arrangement, is called a photovoltaic panel. Depending on the size, these panels can have capacities of up to 300-400 kWp. In recent years, technological developments have pushed the energy efficiency of these panels up above the 20% barrier.

They are commonly found on roofs and on large tracts of land known as solar farms. Solar farms regularly contain different types of mounts for the solar panels:

  • Fixed mounts (low cost but lower output).
  • Single-axis trackers (medium cost; output 20–25% higher than fixed mounts).
  • Dual axis trackers (high cost; output 30–35% higher than fixed mounts).

In each case, the most suitable alternative has to be determined based on a range of factors, including the site, required economic yield, etc.

Solar photovoltaic facilities can be divided up according to:

  • Connection to the power grid: on-grid or off-grid.
  • Use to which the electricity is put: self-consumption or sale to the power grid.
Paneles solares colina Paneles solares azotea
 

Solar thermal

Solar thermal energy uses solar radiation to produce either hot water or steam, depending on the level of available radiation and the type of technology used. Heat collectors and systems can therefore be divided into:

  • Low-temperature (up to 65ºC). Commonly used for heating domestic hot water and/or heating (e.g.: underfloor heating).
  • Medium-temperature (100 y 300ºC). Used especially in certain industrial processes.
  • High-temperature (500 ºC+). Used to produce electricity, via a steam turbine.

In the Basque Country, levels of solar radiation (and thus, the potential for using solar power, as measured in full load equivalent hours) can be clearly divided into three zones:

  • Coastal zone, with potential usage of 950-1,000 hours
  • Intermediary zone, situated in the central part of the region, with 1,110-1,150 hours.
  • Inland zone, in the southernmost area (Rioja Alavesa), with figures of around 1,350-1,400 hours.
Ekian Ekian

So, bearing in mind that solar radiation in the Basque Country is more diffuse than direct, although the region does not enjoy outstanding resources, it has enough to generate acceptable levels of electricity from photovoltaic panels and domestic hot water from low-temperature heat collectors.

Ente Vasco de la Energía (EVE) has helped promote solar facilities of this kind, through direct participation in investments and by supporting several aid programmes. As a result, there are now thousands of installations across the region using solar energy to produce electricity and hot water in all sectors (industry, services, government, residential, etc.).

Of these, the EKIAN project is particularly significant, given the positive impact of its installed capacity, its production level and its novel execution model.

A number of factors and aspects will make solar power a key vector in meeting energy and environmental targets in the coming decades. These include expectations surrounding new models of energy transition, as contained in all energy strategies; new legal frameworks increasingly better adapted to the use of renewables: the forecast technological development of this energy source in the future; increasing social acceptance; ease of installation on buildings and land; competitive prices and environment-friendliness.

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This is the attention service of the Basque Energy Agency.