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University of Ottawa Innovation in Solar Energy: Integration of Ground-based Reflectors Significantly Improves Energy Production and Efficiency, Delivering Economic and Environmental Benefits, with Notable Impacts in Canada and Potential Applications on a Global Scale

As the world searches for solutions to combat climate change, researchers from the University of Ottawa have developed a new approach that could revolutionize how we harness solar energy. Through the use of artificial reflectors placed on the ground, they have found a way to significantly boost the energy production of solar panels.

As mentioned, the core of this innovation involves the use of ground-based reflectors, a simple yet impactful solution. These reflectors, integrated into solar systems, have proven to enhance production and energy efficiency, making such installations more economically sustainable.

The research, conducted in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, and led by Professor Karin Hinzer of SUNLAB at the University of Ottawa, involved Mandy Lewis, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering. The study revealed that installing reflective surfaces under solar panels can increase their energy output by up to 4.5%. According to Mandy Lewis, the lead author of the study, the use of highly reflective white surfaces is particularly effective if placed directly beneath the panels, rather than between rows of panels.

Solar potential in Canada and around the world

This discovery is especially significant for Canada, where snow cover lasts between three and four months a year in major cities like Ottawa and Toronto. About 65% of Canada’s vast territory is covered with snow for more than half of the year, making bifacial solar systems with high ground reflectivity particularly advantageous. Additionally, considering that about 4% of the world’s land areas are classified as sandy deserts, the findings of this study have global applications, as highlighted by Lewis:

“This research is crucial for maximizing solar energy production in geographically diverse locations. Moreover, by generating more energy per unit of surface, reflectors are ideal for densely populated areas, such as urban centers, where there is limited space for solar installations.”

These findings will significantly contribute to the global transition towards zero-emission energy sources. The study showed that, under cloudy skies like those in Seattle, there is an increase in energy production of 6.0%, compared to 2.6% in arid conditions like in Tucson. These discoveries are particularly valuable for Canada and other countries with similar weather conditions.

Source: University of Ottawa

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