Solar Energy in the Himalayas?

The majority of solar panels are installed in warm countries with plenty of sunshine but according to a recent studypeople living in higher regions, where it’s cold and sunny, can soon benefit from solar energy, too.The study investigated the feasibility and efficiency of PV cells at high altitudes like the Himalayas, the Andes or Antarctica, and concluded that these could be used even more efficiently than in ‘traditional regions’ due to the specific conditions.  

Here, up in the mountains, the atmosphere is thinner and so less energy is lost, enabling more available light for the solar cells. Also, the cold environment helps keeping cells of certain materials (e.g. silicon) cool, allowing improved efficiency.

Another advantage is the free renewable energy that could improve the everyday lives of local, poor communities.

Solar systems in Tibet

The first such solar systems have already been set up in Tibet.

Recently, Suntech Power announced its plans to develop a 10 MW solar power plant in Tibet, after the company already installed a solar system in a base camp on Mt Everest and donated several solar systems to schools as well as communities in the region.

Earlier this year, another company, OSolar also launched a state-of-the-art tracking solar installation in Lhasa with great potential for energy efficiency.

Challenges

There are some opinions that these cells are not developed for the humidity and pressure they would have to face on those hillslopes but the study suggested that such cells would still have good efficiency in such conditions.

It should also be noted that some of these cold regions have harsh weather phenomena like hail or strong winds, which can physically harm solar cells [6].  In existing small-scale solar systems in the Swiss and Austrian Alps, components are sturdy, so they can withstand such severe conditions.

Despite these challenges high-altitude solar power may be one of the areas with the most potential for harnessing the Sun’s power.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse
Image: Corbis – Source: Discovery News
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