THERE are new developments in the solar industry every day, but one place with its finger firmly on the pulse is the Sheffield Solar Farm.
The farm, officially opened last year by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, is on the roof of the University of Sheffield’s Hicks Building and is part of a £120,000 investment which has recently been extended with further funds of £300,000.
The aim is to collect and analyse solar energy data from across the UK in order to boost our knowledge of renewable energy.
Dr Alastair Buckley, founder of the farm, will be telling delegates at the national photovoltaic conference, Solar Flair, about its aims and challenges at the Radisson Blu on November 24.
The farm features 70sq m state-of- the-art photovoltaic panels on its roof which provide both the university and photovoltaics researchers and developers around the UK with the technology to field-test their new and experimental photovoltaic cell designs.
The Solar Farm provides a benchmark for the use of photovoltaics in northerly latitudes, such as the UK. The equipment at the university monitors the effectiveness of the photovoltaic technology being tried and tested on the roof, by logging data and displaying it on a specially designed website for the farm.
It includes a live web-cam and web-feed demonstrating the actual power being generated by each panel; how the weather is affecting the amount of energy produced and the total power the sun is radiating on the roof, as well as offering a comparison of the different photovoltaic technologies.
It ties into existing work under way at the university in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics & Astronomy.
The aim is to lead the way in the understanding of photovoltaics by engaging in knowledge transfer opportunities with developers, users and policy makers with the hope of driving the technology forward.
But they need your help. To gain a better picture of the effectiveness of the photovoltaic industry they’re asking solar panel owners to log onto their website www.shef.ac.uk/solarfarm and donate their photovoltaic data.
To hear more about the Sheffield Solar Farm and other fascinating developments book your tickets for Solar Flair by logging on to www.solarflairpv.co.uk
:: Stewart Watkins is the managing director of the County Durham Development Company