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Chile is home to Latin America’s largest solar power plant

With an installed capacity of 210 MW, Atacama 1 will be the first of its kind in Latin America.
And it will provide renewable energy 24 hours a day.

A 200-metre tower will capture the solar energy reflected by 10,600 heliostats – giants
mirrors able to follow the sun’s motions in the sky – and will produce 110 MW of solar thermal
energy in combination with 100 MW of photovoltaic energy produced by 392,000 panels, in
the middle of the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Abengoa’s solar thermal plant © Abengoa.

The construction of the plant started last January and is set to be completed by 2017. The
plant, Atacama 1, will be built in one of the areas with the highest levels of solar radiation
and will cover a surface of almost 1,000 hectares. Atacama 1 will thus be able to produce
electricity thanks to a combination of a photovoltaic system and heliostats. In fact,
the heliostats will concentrate the solar radiation on the top of the 2,000-tonne
receiver. The solar radiation will be used to heat 50,000 tonnes of molten salt that will
transfer heat to turbines. The turbines, in turn, will produce energy day and night.

The power plant will provide energy 24 hours a day

Once completed (despite the economic hardship of Abengoa, Spanish group that invested
in the project), the power plant will be the first of its kind in South America, and will be able
to provide energy to 410,000 households per year, whilst avoiding 870,000 tonnes of CO2
to be released in the atmosphere every year.

It’s not the first mega power plant to be built in Chile, particularly in the area of the Atacama
Desert, where there’s a little bit of Italy, too. In fact, the Carrera Pinto solar power plant is
one of the world’s largest, where Enel Green Power and Convert Italia completed and
connected to the grid the first 20 MW, out of a total of 97.

“The photovoltaic market is rapidly growing in Chile. Two years ago, the installed
capacity didn’t reach 4 MW, and 70 MW were still under construction. Currently, there are
170 MW installed and 170 under construction, whilst other 800 MW are scheduled for 2016,”
explained Giuseppe Moro, CEO of Convert Italia. “Chile is one of the world’s leading
countries for the investments in the solar field”.
Solar panel
Photovoltaic solar panels absorb sunlight as a source of energy to generate electricity.
A photovoltaic (PV) module is a packaged, connected assembly of typically 6x10
photovoltaic solar cells. Photovoltaic modules constitute the photovoltaic array of a photovoltaic
system that generates and supplies solar electricity in commercial and residential applications.
Each module is rated by its DC output power under standard test conditions (STC), and
typically ranges from 100 to 365 Watts (W). The efficiency of a module determines the area of
a module given the same rated output – an 8% efficient 230 W module will have twice the area
of a 16% efficient 230 W module. There are a few commercially available solar modules that
exceed efficiency of 24%[1][2]
A single solar module can produce only a limited amount of power; most installations contain
multiple modules. A photovoltaic system typically includes an array of photovoltaic modules,
an inverter, a battery pack for storage, interconnection wiring, and optionally a solar
tracking mechanism.
The most common application of solar panels is solar water heating systems.[3]
The price of solar power has continued to fall so that in many countries it is cheaper than
ordinary fossil fuel electricity from the electricity grid, a phenomenon known as grid parity.[4]

Theory and construction

Photovoltaic modules use light energy (photons) from the Sun to generate electricity through
the photovoltaic effect. The majority of modules use wafer-based crystalline silicon cells or thin-
film cells. The structural (load carrying) member of a module can either be the top layer or the
back layer. Cells must also be protected from mechanical damage and moisture. Most modules
are rigid, but semi-flexible ones based on thin-film cells are also available. The cells must be
connected electrically in series, one to another. Externally, most of photovoltaic modules
use MC4 connectors type to facilitate easy weatherproof connections to the rest of the system.
Module electrical connections are made in series to achieve a desired output voltage or in
parallel to provide a desired current capability. The conducting wires that take the current off
the modules may contain silver, copper or other non-magnetic conductive transition metals.
Bypass diodes may be incorporated or used externally, in case of partial module shading, to
maximize the output of module sections still illuminated.
Some special solar PV modules include concentrators in which light is focused by lenses or
mirrors onto smaller cells. This enables the use of cells with a high cost per unit area (such
as gallium arsenide) in a cost-effective way.
Solar panels also use metal frames consisting of racking components, brackets, reflector
shapes, and troughs to better support the panel structure.[5]

Depending on construction, photovoltaic modules can produce electricity from a range
of frequencies of light, but usually cannot cover the entire solar range
(specifically, ultraviolet, infrared and low or diffused light). Hence, much of the
incident sunlight energy is wasted by solar modules, and they can give far higher efficiencies if
illuminated with monochromatic light. Therefore, another design concept is to split the light into
six to eight different wavelength ranges that will produce a different color of light, and direct the
beams onto different cells tuned to those ranges.[6] This has been projected to be capable of
raising efficiency by 50%.
Scientists from Spectrolab, a subsidiary of Boeing, have reported development of multi-junction
solar cells with an efficiency of more than 40%, a new world record for solar photovoltaic
cells.[7] The Spectrolab scientists also predict that concentrator solar cells could achieve
efficiencies of more than 45% or even 50% in the future, with theoretical efficiencies being
about 58% in cells with more than three junctions.
Currently, the best achieved sunlight conversion rate (solar module efficiency) is around 21.5%
in new commercial products[8] typically lower than the efficiencies of their cells in isolation. The
most efficient mass-produced solar modules[disputed – discuss] have power density values of up to 175
W/m2 (16.22 W/ft2).[9]
Research by Imperial College, London has shown that the efficiency of a solar panel can be
improved by studding the light-receiving semiconductor surface with aluminumnanocylinders
similar to the ridges on Lego blocks. The scattered light then travels along a longer path in the
semiconductor which means that more photons can be absorbed and converted into current.
Although these nanocylinders have been used previously (aluminum was preceded
by gold and silver), the light scattering occurred in the near infrared region and visible light was
absorbed strongly. Aluminum was found to have absorbed the ultraviolet part of the spectrum,
while the visible and near infrared parts of the spectrum were found to be scattered by the
aluminum surface. This, the research argued, could bring down the cost significantly and
improve the efficiency as aluminum is more abundant and less costly than gold and silver. The
research also noted that the increase in current makes thinner film solar panels technically
feasible without "compromising power conversion efficiencies, thus reducing material

 Efficiencies of solar panel can be calculated by MPP (maximum power point) value of solar
 Solar inverters convert the DC power to AC power by performing MPPT process: solar
inverter samples the output Power (I-V curve) from the solar cell and applies the proper
resistance (load) to solar cells to obtain maximum power.
 MPP (Maximum power point) of the solar panel consists of MPP voltage (V mpp) and MPP
current (I mpp): it is a capacity of the solar panel and the higher value can make higher
Micro-inverted solar panels are wired in parallel, which produces more output than normal
panels which are wired in series with the output of the series determined by the lowest
performing panel (this is known as the "Christmas light effect"). Micro-inverters work
independently so each panel contributes its maximum possible output given the available
Solar Panel System Components
The Solar Company’s solar power systems consist of an array of solar panels (or
modules), a mounting system, and an inverter with a computerized solid-state controller.
The solar panels generate DC electricity directly from sunlight. The inverter converts the
DC electricity produced by the solar panels into AC electricity to be usable in the home.
The computerized controller also regulates the solar power system and ensures peak
performance. A standard system is designed to stop working the moment there is a power
interruption. In applications that are not connected to the grid or require back-up power,
batteries are also required.
Solar Panel Installation
For most customers, residential or commercial, the roof is the best location for solar panel
installation. It usually already has the structural specifications that the solar panels require.
All that is needed is mounting hardware and appropriate flashings. If the roof is not
applicable or desired, various other mounting options are available, including shade
awnings or ground-mount options (i.e., standard ground-mount, ground pole, or trackers).
Watch the short video below to see what’s involved in installing solar panels on a typical
composition roof:
Inverter Installation
The inverter is commonly installed near the main panel either indoors or outside. Since it is
made with solid-state electronics and performs better in cooler conditions, the inverter
should be located out of afternoon sun. Usually, the best location is near the main electric
System Monitoring
This allows you to remotely view your system’s performance through your computer or
remotely on a wireless device. SunPower also offers a convenient app for your smart
device so you can access your solar production stats on the go.
Additional Hardware
If you decide you want a battery back-up system or need a stand-alone energy solution,
The Solar Company can design and install a system that is right for you. Some back-up
systems and all stand-alone systems require a gas generator (propane, natural gas,
diesel, etc.). Battery banks vary in size depending on power loads but generally need 10-
20 sq. ft. and may require venting.
How do solar panels convert the sun’s energy into electricity?
The sun transmits energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. When this radiation is
absorbed by the solar cells, a chemical reaction occurs, causing rapid electron movement.
Because of the way the cells are manufactured with layers of material with differing atomic
structures, the electrons are forced to move in one direction, creating direct current, or DC.
It then flows into an inverter which converts the DC into alternating current, or AC, to be
usable in your home or business.
And the best part is that sunlight is abundant and infinite, unlike fossil fuels which are
definitely limited, not to mention are subject to rate changes.
The Benefits of Solar Power
Save money by reducing or even eliminating your electric bill
Generate your own pollution-free, clean electricity
Invest money into your home, not your utility company
Fix your electricity cost over the next 40 years
Enjoy a 25-year warranty on solar panels and a 40-year design-life
Hedge against future utility rate increases
No batteries needed; bank your extra energy in the local utility-grid (net-metering)
Solar energy requires very little maintenance
Monthly positive cash flow from day ONE
No lifestyle changes; use solar power the same as you currently use electricity
Switching to Solar Power Is Easy
The Solar Company is a turnkey solution. That means we take care of everything and it’s
all done in-house, so we can guarantee your satisfaction. If you have any questions about
installing a solar power system on your home, contact us. Our highly-trained consultants
are available to meet with you and discuss the best solution for your unique needs. Actual
installation takes two days on average and rarely requires access inside your home. We’ll
even make sure to clean up after the job is done and make sure everything is in order.
Solar Power Is Very Affordable
By reducing or eliminating a bill you already pay, finding money for solar is easy. Nearly all
of our customers choose to finance a system, whether it’s a purchase or lease. The new
solar loan payment is fixed, unlike rising utility rates (PG&E’s rates have been rising 6.5%
each year for the past 25 yrs.), and is usually cheaper than what you were paying to the
utility company. This means you can save money; more than 90 percent of our customers
have a positive day-one cash flow. The California Solar Initiative (CSI) is currently offering
two different kinds of California solar tax credit. You can’t afford not to go solar!