Brags & Hayes Generator is a company focused on energy production that has been studying the advances in solar powered generator technology in recent years. For this reason we have progressively incorporated new novel products into our solar powered generator technology offerings. However, the big question that is very frequently asked by our clients these days is: Are solar powered generator technologies as efficient as fossil fuel power generation systems?
First we must understand... What "efficiency" Means in relation to energy production?
The answer to this question varies, depending on the system we are analyzing. If we analyze only the energy production system, as an isolated system from other important variables, the efficiency of fossil fuel energy systems is still very high as compared to an equivalent solar powered generator. We speak of a comparison equating variables such as size, input cost and power output.
But when we extend the analysis we see that the answer to this question is no longer so obvious. The goal is to limit the use of fossil energy. We have been using fossil fuel energy for about 230 years: We use some energy reserves that are in the subsoil, we release the same and we destroy the reserve. Once the energy is released by combustion, and used to, for example, do the work of moving a car, a truck or a ship (and many other things), the concentrated and usable energy of the oil is converted into disaggregated energy, distributed among all the molecules of the air that increase in infinitesimal amounts their speed, and temperature… eventually disintegrating in the form of heat. Overall, this is a highly inefficient system.
To use fossil energy we dissipate it beyond recovery. We destroy our resources and our ability to remain in a viable environment for life. It seems much smarter to use the energy that constantly comes from the sun. We dissipate it, equally, in our movements, in the construction of infrastructure, but we replenish it during the peak hours of sunshine, let’s say 09:00 to 15:00 everyday.
The Sun discharges about 0,600 kW on each square meter of soil between parallels 40ºS and 40ºN and less at higher latitudes, for about 6 hours a day. That supposes an amount of 144 billion kWh every two days. Humanity today is spending that amount of energy in a year. With yields of 10%, all the energy that humanity spends in a year could be harnessed from the sun 20 days.
So we see that when we expand the analysis beyond a “power generator” the notion of efficiency of each system changes.
A change in technological development and in the Energy Efficiency paradigm
What is comparative energy efficiency? This can be defined as making use of a smaller amount of energy to perform the same work or action. An electrical appliance is energy efficient when it consumes a lower amount of energy compared to other similar appliances, as is the case, for example, with LED bulbs compared to incandescent bulbs. The same applies to the latest generation appliances. Energy efficiency results in a lower need for energy expenditure to fulfill the same purpose.
All of the above has as a consequence that there is a tendency to require less energy to carry daily tasks as we move forward in time.
If we start from this fact, it becomes obvious that a solar powered generator system will also showed increased efficiency as time goes on. These improvements will come, either from the advancement of solar powered generator technology or because our overall environment requires less energy to function.
Solar powered generator vs. fuel generators
In general, power generators (of any technology) offer incredible versatility. They will allow you energy autonomy in your home, your business or institution if there is a power outage. It will also allow you freedom of movement with specialized generators to be able to travel in a caravan, on a boat or if you are camping.
When deciding which is the ideal purchase (in the current state of technology) between a solar powered generator or conventional fuel generators, it is very useful to compare the advantages and disadvantages of each. That is why below we will allow ourselves to develop a comparison in the main points that you should take into account:
- Gas. In a fuel generator, it must be taken into account that the energy is generated from the availability of fuel at the input of the device. That fuel has a cost. Assuming it doesn’t come through a pipeline, it also requires logistical work that must be taken into account. A solar powered generator is different. Whether it is an installation of solar panels for a large company or a simple solar mini-charger for the mobile phone, from the moment you start using it the energy you get is energy that comes from the energy of the sun. This saves you from having to spend money on the acquisition of fuel (petrol, diesel or gas) and the related logistics, during the useful life of the system.
- Clean energy. Photovoltaic energy is 100% clean energy. No fumes and no polluting CO2 emissions. So simple and so different as compared to conventional generators that generate energy from burning fossil fuels. However, it is all true that CO2 containment in fossil fuel generators has improved a lot in recent years, minimizing the pollution generated by their use to levels unimaginable a few years ago.
- Silent energy. Solar powered generator are much quieter than conventional ones. If you need your generator for the home projects or simply to take in your caravan on a vacation, this is a great option. However, like the previous point, there are also many options for fossil fuel generators that have very efficient noise attenuators and that make their use very comfortable for both the owner and the neighbors.
- Maintenance. Fossil fuel generators are internal combustion engines, and as a car engine requires preventive and corrective maintenance since they have moving parts that are in continuous mechanical friction — some have a cooling system, belts and pulleys, etc. All these parts are susceptible to wear. Solar powered generator have no moving parts, fewer wires, no refrigerant, and no liquid fuel. The result is practically non-existent maintenance and considerable safety against possible fires or accidents.
- Investment. If we compare generators with similar power characteristics, a solar powered generator is usually more expensive than its equivalent conventional generator. However, if we factor fuel and maintenance costs into the equation, then the equation reverses in favor of the solar generator. In relation to this we can say that “the initial investment” of a solar powered generator is greater than that of a conventional generator.
- Power generation capacity. If you are looking for a source of energy to power some household appliances, a solar powered generator will fulfill your mission. If what you have in mind is backup equipment for your home or to power high-consumption equipment — let’s say industrial or commercial equipment — the most recommended option is not yet that of a solar powered generator. Solar power generation is a technology in continuous evolution, and in recent years it has taken amazing steps to increase its capacity and performance in an amazing way, however it is still not capable of surpassing a fossil fuel generator in the field of its ability to handle heavy loads. When we talk about industrial or commercial applications, this gap between both technologies increases notably, since they are applications where a reliable handling capacity of a large load is required and solar energy generation technology is not capable of handling these scenarios with an investment of money comparable to the investment of buying a conventional generator.
- Slow recharge and dependence on the sun. A conventional generator will offer you electricity continuously as long as you continue to feed it with fuel. This does not happen with solar powered generator that, at a certain point, need to be recharged. That recharging not only takes some time, but also has to be done during the day and whenever there is enough sunlight. If you are going to be in a hurry or require a reliable and permanent source of energy, the solar powered generator will probably not be your best option.
- Useful life of the systems. As we have always stated, any energy generating system is eternal if it is well maintained over time. However, the fossil energy generator, being a system of moving parts, entails more natural wear and tear. It also has permanent care elements such as the health of the lubrication system and the cooling system, which are key to a prolonged life of the entire generator. But on the other hand, in relation to the solar powered generator, the current useful life of a solar powered generator is calculated between 25 to 30 years, and they are also low-maintenance systems because they do not have moving parts subject to friction. However, the useful life of the batteries of the solar powered generator systems is much less than that time, even at full power of operation, there are those who limit optimal operation to 6 years, and it is one of the most expensive parts of the system.
As time goes by, solar technologies are advancing, and there are many advantages to a solar powered generator system. We obviously see a lot of future in this clean energy generation option. At the present time, its use is somewhat limited to many applications, and a solar power generator does not necessarily fit every need. In today’s reality, the key is to be clear about the use that is required for the power generator and based on that, make the purchase decision.
If you have any questions about technical issues or new technologies related to your power generation project, do not hesitate to contact us the Brags & Hayes Generators team will be happy to help you. We will advise you on everything you need, we will help you choose the best equipment for your needs and we will give you a quote without no commitment necessary on your part.