solar flairs and/or sun spots ?

notsobrightnotsobright Solar Expert Posts: 247 ✭✭
odd question but just out of curiousity, do solar flairs or sun spots have any effects on PV power generation and if so what are they?


thanks

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,717 admin
    Re: solar flairs and/or sun spots ?

    There is the minor effect... The sun output less energy when there are no sun spots (quiet periods). It is one competing theory that this historic low level of activity is responsible for the current cooling trend. However, it appears that this change in solar output is only on the order of 0.1% --- not near enough to measure any output from a solar array.

    The other are major solar storms. We probably don't know what a really bad storm will do to our modern planet. Some "recent" history of major events are over 100 years old:
    Our technologically dependent society could be brought to its knees the next time Earth is walloped by an extreme solar outburst, according to a new report.

    Intense outbursts of plasma from the Sun, called coronal mass ejections, can create electromagnetic interference that plays havoc with technology. One nasty blast in 1989 knocked out the power grid in Quebec for several hours.

    The effects could get much worse, according to a report by a US National Research Council committee led by Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado in Boulder and based on workshops held in May 2008 in Washington, DC.

    The most powerful solar outburst on (human technological) record happened in 1859. At that time, it merely disrupted telegraph communication. But if it happened today, it could cause lasting damage to electric power grids, with cascading effects on the supply of water, perishable food, medicine and other necessities, the report says.

    Damaged transformers, which change the electricity's voltage, could be a particularly big problem. "If a large number of those were taken out, it could take quite a while to replace them," says Baker. "There's not a lot of stock of them, and they have to be built to order."

    One recent study suggested the Sun may be on the verge of a decades-long quiet period, during which big outbursts would be less likely (New Scientist, 10 January 2009, p 11). But such predictions are fraught with uncertainty.
    For those with off grid systems--it sounds like the scale of the systems is so small that there could not be enough coupling into the wiring to cause much problem at all.

    The major effects are to knockout transformers for electric utility distribution and transmission systems. They can make some cheap changes to transformers (according to the above article) would would reduce the damage by a fair amount.

    Obviously, a Grid Tied system would be affected by utility issues by either over voltage/current damage, or if the grid is knocked out and the GT system is of little use until the grid is restored.

    It sounds like lightning is really the bigger issue that most of us will have to face in day to day life for the near future anyways with our power systems.

    The bigger issue may be that a once in 50 year event to cause communications failures (especially with satellites) and grid outages (supposedly, the utilities could shut down and ground transmission lines to prevent much of the damage--it is the lines that collect the energy from the magnetic storm--the transformers themselves are too small to be affected--much like a home off-grid system, I would expect). Anyone/anything in space may be a different matter.

    The large storms (like 1859) are roughly once in 500 year events which we may not yet understand how vulnerable we may be. But, it does appear that it could be, in the worst case, a technological civilization ending event if it takes years to rebuild the nation's/world's power grid. At this point, it is difficult to understand who is right (or even if anyone is right) in their predictions.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: solar flairs and/or sun spots ?

    bill's right that it is a small increase noticeable in pv output if you are paying very close attention, but odds are the day to day changes like edge of cloud events and other incidents like airplane reflections could be stronger than that and dwarf any results seen by the flares making flares less noticed event that tends to be drawn out over some time. even lightning is many times hotter and therefor brighter than the sun and we aren't exactly pumping tons of extra power out during that time. i'm sure in space it is probably much more noticed, but not so much here as the sun's output is greatly filtered by our atmosphere leaving far less realized to us by the time it reaches us.

    anybody ever try to get a peak unfiltered voltage reading on lightning at night?:confused:
  • vcallawayvcallaway Solar Expert Posts: 157 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: solar flairs and/or sun spots ?

    I don't think anyone really knows for sure.

    From what I understand we are going into a period of increased solar activity. The odds of emp are going up.

    EMP is a high frequency inductive charge. It is different than lightning and things like surge and lightning suppressors are not effective. As far as I know there have not been any tests on solar panels to see if they would survive.

    Being not grid tied could certainly help. The more exposed wires the more it will pick up the pulse. Big antenna.

    If you are really concerned build a faraday cage and keep spare hardware in it.
  • GreenPowerManiacGreenPowerManiac Solar Expert Posts: 453 ✭✭✭
    Re: solar flairs and/or sun spots ?

    The impact of a Solar Flairs may not be noticed very frequently, however does have a major impact on oceanic currents, heating, winds and primarily weather patterns. Since weather is what we have every day, we may or may not readily blame the solar flairs for their havoc, nor notice any difference in our part of the globe.
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  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,717 admin
    Re: solar flairs and/or sun spots ?

    I don't think that you could really compare an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) from a nuclear weapon to that of a solar flare. The EMP from a nuclear device is a very fast rising edge with lots of high frequency content--and in that sense--should be very similar (or even faster) than a nearby lighting strike.

    A solar flair is a relatively slow event witch lower frequencies and would tend to create inductive currents only in large scale electrical systems (probably on the order of miles or larger). There are higher frequency effects too--but those would tend to be xray and gamma ray events that would disrupt satellites rather than ground stations (and people).

    We are probably heading into an era of increased solar activity only because we are in a historically very low period of solar sunspot activity. And even then, the rough estimate is that we will remain in a solar flair minimum for some time to come (and the guesstimate is probably just about as accurate as the weather forecasts are today--nobody knows enough about the physics to accurately predict the future at this time).

    From my earlier post: Sun may be on the verge of a decades-long quiet period

    And if you read the article, you will find that this may have its own problems... An active sun helps keep cosmic rays at a minimum on the earth.

    Add to that the earth's weakening magnetic field (the earth's field actually switches north/south poles every ~800,000 years or so)--this may actually be a much worse event for "us" than the random solar flair alone.

    Lots to worry about out there in the cruel universe.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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