Something new under the sun: Argonne makes sustainability strides

Nov 20, 2013
Argonne nanoscientist Seth Darling is using a new 95-kilowatt array at Argonne to study how various types of solar panels perform in the Midwest region.

Argonne grew a fine crop of solar panels last summer. The lab built a 95-kilowatt solar farm onsite, which powers the laboratory's emergency operations center and saves about $9,400 and 94 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. The solar array doubles as a test bed for scientific research.

Argonne nanoscientist Seth Darling is using the new to study how various types of perform in the Midwest region. "There's an absence of good, objective comparative data on real-world solar panel performance, particularly in the Midwest," said Darling. "That sort of information is good for everyone to have—homeowners, business owners, and so on."

Argonne has already partnered with the Illinois Tollway for several renewable energy projects, including multiple solar panel technologies located at the Tollway's Downers Grove headquarters. They are testing how solar technologies perform in the Midwest region under various environmental conditions.

"We're using six different types of panel technologies in our research partnership with the Illinois Tollway," said Darling. "So we're getting some great data, but not very strong statistics because there's only a small number of panels of each type in the study."

To alleviate this problem, Darling worked with Argonne sustainability manager Devin Hodge to install an onsite array that is more than ten times larger than the array located at the Tollway's headquarters and uses three different types of panel technologies.

"Argonne's larger solar array will enable us to collect more reliable data," said Darling. "We've also set up lots of weather data-gathering technology stations as part of the solar array."

The study is also recording weather data, which helps scientists calculate important statistics, like how much of the available sunlight a panel is capturing. Each solar panel is equipped with a temperature sensor, and the site has dynamometers to measure wind and pyrometers to measure sunlight, or "insolation"—the measure of solar radiation energy received on a surface area.

"We'd like to determine is which types of panels perform better in higher or lower levels of light, and, most importantly, the real cost is per unit of electricity generated from each one," said Darling.

Explore further: Amping up solar in the snowy north

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Amping up solar in the snowy north

Oct 23, 2013

Solar farms are a no-brainer in warm and sunny places, but what about in northern climes where snow can cover and even shut down the panels?

France launches vast solar panel array

Oct 13, 2011

France on Thursday launched its largest-ever solar energy farm, with an array of panels spread over about 200 hectares (500 acres) in the mountainous southern Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region.

Recommended for you

Team improves solar-cell efficiency

7 hours ago

New light has been shed on solar power generation using devices made with polymers, thanks to a collaboration between scientists in the University of Chicago's chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular ...

Calif. teachers fund to boost clean energy bets

7 hours ago

The California State Teachers' Retirement System says it plans to increase its investments in clean energy and technology to $3.7 billion, from $1.4 billion, over the next five years.

Idealistic Norwegian sun trappers

14 hours ago

The typical Norwegian owner of a solar heating system is a resourceful man in his mid-fifties. He is technically skilled, interested in energy systems, and wants to save money and protect the environment.

User comments : 0