What is a Solar power plant? How does it work?

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With the increasing deterioration of the environment due to the fossil fuels, the eco-friendly non fossil fuel and renewable energies like solar and wind energy have become mainstream. With the advancement of technology in solar energy has become more economical and more and more government across the globe are now turning towards solar.

So let’s understand the various parts of a solar power plant.

If you want to learn first about  Photovoltaic  system and its working then read our article, How does a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) power system work?

What are the main components of solar power system?

The main components or sub-systems in a Solar PV System are Soalr panels or PV(Photot voltaic) modules, Inverters, Batteries, Charge Controllers, Surge protecting devices, Electrical Cables & Wires and Panel mounting structures and circuit protection devices etc. Now lets discuss about each component in detail.

Photovoltaic Solar Panels or PV Modules

PV Modules are the building blocks of solar plants. A Solar PV module is a collection of number of solar cells. These solar cells are mainly series connected to provide higher voltage than individual cell. In the market PV modules are available in teh range of 3 watt to 300 watt. Large number of PV modules can be connected in arrays to generate power in Mega Watts.

Inverter

Solar cells produce DC electricity but our most of our home appliances run on AC electricity. So we need a mechanism to convert DC current to AC urrent if we do not wish to purchase complete new appliances which run on DC current. Inverter converts the DC current from the solar panels into AC current which is then fed into the electricity supply for use in the home.  SO the solar inverters are an important interface between the solar modules and the load. Depending on whether battery is used in the PV system or not, solar inverters can be categorized into standalone inverter or Off-grid inverter, Grid-connected inverter, and Battery back-up grid connected inverters.

Batteries

Batteries, as electrical energy storage systems are very important part of standalone solar PV systems. Why are they important? Because, without batteries or energy storage, a solar system will not be able to provide electricity when there is no sunlight. As batteris are costly and they require proper handling and maintenance, the number of batteries often become a deciding factor in designing of standalone solar system.

Mounting System

Solar panel mounting systems are of real importance as they hold and support the PV panels on the grounds or on the roof tops. They had to bear the wind velocity too. Design of mounting structures varrry depending upon the installation practice.

Charge Controllers

Charge controllers, as the name implies, control the flow of charge from the batteries and to the batteries. They protect the batteries by preventing over charging or deep discharge of batteries. Charge controllers preserve battery life and increase their performance. These are used only in standalone solar systems. Following two types of charge controllers are used manly these days.

  •  Pulse Width modulation (PWM) charge controller or standard charge controller
  • Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) charge controller.

Electrical Cables and Wires

Like in any electrical systems wire and cable of correct size are required to connect various electrical components from solar panel to building main supply. Improper selection of cables during design phase may lead to fault in the future and break-down of the system.

Generation Meters

In order to conform to regulations and qualify for feed in tariff payments you need a meter or system that will accurately register the total kWh of PV electricity generated by the solar panels.

Monitoring Systems

Various types of real time monitoring software based systems have been developed to monitor the health and performance level of solar power plants. These things help in taking immediate corrective measures if the system goes down due to faults.

The actual components and parts used in building a customized solar plant can varry depending on the existing infrastructure and the user requirement.

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