UK university sets up solar farm for PV research

The Sheffield Solar Farm, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), will be based around the installation of 70m² state-of-the-art photovoltaic panels on the roof of the University’s Hicks building. It has been said the panels will benefit the university and photovoltaics researchers, as well developers around the UK, who will be able to use it to field-test their new and experimental photovoltaic cell designs in a bid to further knowledge of renewable energy sources. It is thought the main installation of the new Solar Farm will be completed by the beginning of next month.

While providing a benchmark for the use of photovoltaics in northerly latitudes, such as the UK, the university has said that the Sheffield Solar Farm will also be used to provide electricity to the Hicks Building and the National Grid.??To monitor the effectiveness of the photovoltaic technology being tried and tested on the roof, equipment will log data and display it on a specially designed website for the Solar Farm. This will include a live web-cam and web-feed demonstrating the actual power being generated by each panel, the total power the sun is radiating on the roof and how the weather is affecting the amount of energy produced, as well as offer a comparison of the different photovoltaic technologies.

??In the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, work is already underway to develop new generations of solar cells using plastic as opposed to silicon, something that would reduce processing costs and enable photovoltaic technology to be used on a wider scale. These new solar cells will now be put to the test on the Solar Farm.??

The news of the Solar Farm comes as the University of Sheffield launches a new venture entitled Project Sunshine. The project aims to unite scientists in finding ways to harness the power of the sun and tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the world today: meeting the increasing food and energy needs of the world’s population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change.

??Dr Alastair Buckley, from the University’s Department of Physics, who is leading the Sheffield Solar Farm project, said: "The Sheffield Solar Farm is an important venture as it is bridging the gap between the research lab and how solar cells are used in the real world. We want to find out how new solar technologies perform here in Sheffield and compare them to the existing state-of-the-art technologies. This will help to align our research into next generation cell designs with real world requirement, as well as informing customers, policy makers and other researchers which technologies are best for the UK."??

Solar music

Meanwhile in other news, experts at the university have discovered “solar music”. They say that musical sounds created by longitudinal vibrations within the Sun’s atmosphere have been recorded and accurately studied for the first time thus, shedding light on the Sun’s magnetic atmosphere.

Using state-of-the-art mathematical theory combined with satellite observations, a team of solar physicists from the University have captured the music on tape and revealed the harmonious sounds are caused by the movement of giant magnetic loops in the solar corona – the outermost, mysterious, and least understood layer of the Sun’s atmosphere. Most importantly, the team studied how this sound is decaying, giving an unprecedented insight into the physics of the solar corona.

Professor Robertus von Fáy-Siebenbürgen from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Head of SP2RC, said: "The results of our latest coronal research, presented in the Parliament at Westminster, allow us to gain a fundamentally new insight into the fascinating but at the same time very mysterious solar atmosphere. I’m most proud to have such talented young scientists within my research group and department. The invitation by SET for Britain and our collaborative research efforts clearly demonstrate our international leadership position in the field of solar physics."??

Read more about the university’s solar music findings here.