Just Ask Washington: Yes, Coal-Killing Solar Panels Work In Rainy Weather

March 6th, 2019 by Tina Casey   cleantechnica.com


The rain-prone US state of Washington has been a little slow on the draw when the topic turns to solar panels, but that is all about to change. The state is announcing its first ever public lands lease for a solar farm, and it’s a doozy: more than 500,000 solar panels are slated for the new 150 megawatt Lund Hill project, which will cover both private and public lands in Klickitat County.

Aside from rainy weather, solar developers in Washington have to contend with competition from other renewables in the state, including legacy hydropower operations and a thriving new wind power sector.

Nevertheless, our friends over at The Seattle Times point out that favorable economic winds are blowing over the PV sector in Washington State. Please support your friendly neighborhood journalist and follow that link for many fascinating details.

For those of you on the go, the gist of it is that “energy-guzzling” data centers in Washington State are providing the economic incentive for more PV development. That would include notables like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google among others.

Another interesting angle is complimentarity between wind and solar resources. That’s fancyspeak for the idea that wind and solar output can be managed within a grid to provide for reliable delivery without the need for excessive investment in energy storage facilities.

The Lund Hill project also fits in with the emerging PV trend in Alaska, which just hit the CleanTechnica radar last week. On first look, Alaska would appear to be the least friendly state for solar panels in the US, but its solar resource profile is similar to that of PV-friendly Germany.

Other US states with sub-optimal solar profiles are also hopping on the bandwagon. To cite just one example, a 2012 study that laid the ground for a 100% renewable energy future in Minnesota is on its way to realization. The state’s newly minted governor anticipates a big assist from the major utility Xcel, which recently announced an ambitious renewable energy plan of its own.

Link to full article:  https://cleantechnica.com/2019/03/06/just-ask-washington-yes-coal-k...

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Sorry, but solar panels do not work as well in shade or clouds, and certainly not in rain.  they may work, but they don’t work well.  What the writer of this article doesn’t know is their Washington State geography.  Washington, the “Evergreen State” is 2/3rds desert.  Everything east of the Cascade Mountains is either arid or semi-arid.  The area I lived in, the Tri-Cities in the SE part of the state, averaged less than 10” of rain per year.

The server farms referred to are mostly in Moses Lake, WA, another semi-arid area of the state.  That area is attractive to Microsoft and other tech companies because it has cheap land, cheap power (lots of hydro-power from the nearby Columbia River) and cheap labor.  It would also be a fine place for both solar and wind power generation.  And, it almost never rains!  

As solar panels become more efficient, they are also becoming more economic in areas once thought unsuitable.  The latest innovations are films that repel dust and dirt.  It's unknowable how many of the current innovations will be economic and scalable but the trend is unmistakable.  Solar + Storage is becoming cheaper and more efficient.  It is already threatening the long term future of natural gas for electric generation.  I'm afraid natural gas may have missed its window with the defeat of the Clean Power Plan.  Solar + Storage was not an option at that time.

I don’t diagree with the improvements in the technology.  What struck we was the shoddy headline and thesis of the story.  People relate WA weather to constant rain 9 months a year, and that paradigm was what the author used.  But Klicitat County is east of the Cascades, and gets much less rain than Seattle.  This point would seem to undermine the thrust of the story, regardless of whether the technology is improving or not.

Thanks for the clarification.  I wouldn't know Klicitat County from Keatchie.  Well, actually I do know Keatchie pretty well.  :-)

I read something quite a few years back about the technology for growing the media(crystals?), maybe it was sprayed on, used in PV cells. It's been quite some time, but I distinctly remember the efficiency getting stupid high. 


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