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This is my final high school assignment. I'm asked to prepare a research document on Solar Thermal and Solar Photo-voltaic, to prove that these two are feasible alternative power sources to power the country (Australia) in 10 years time. To simplify it, I'm only doing a small region in Australia, which in this case is Alice Springs.

I'm looking to show some basic calculations that can help with my thesis. This is the part where I need help with, so what should my calculations be about?

What are the necessary equations for this kind of topic?

I need some help on where to start my research into the calculations.

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closed as not constructive by David Z Oct 27 '12 at 12:48

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Hello YYUI: At Physics.SE, we deal with conceptual question & answers (not some random discussion). Your question simply asks users to provide an answer for your assignment topic, which we strongly discourage... If you require to ask something new, flag it for moderator attention to reopen it. (I'm mentioning this on behalf of the moderator) Please spend sometime to read the FAQ and our homework policy – Waffle's Crazy Peanut Oct 27 '12 at 13:16
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This will be a simplified guide, as this is high-school level (I'm assuming that means ages ~ 12-16).

You'll need some idea of available resource. Now, Alice Springs has quite a bit of open land around it (it's probably one of the most isolated settlements in the world, isn't it?). So there will be no issue here. Still, you need to do the maths. So get some figures from a database of solar energy per unit area - that's called insolation.

That will tell you how much solar power is available .

Then you need to find the typical efficiency of a PV system (that will be of the order of 10-15%), and a solar-thermal system (that may be 40-60%).

And then you'll need some ideas of total demand. To get that, you'll need the number of people living in Alice Springs, and the average electricity use per person (it may be around 0.3kW-1kW), and the average hot-water use (for space heating and direct hot water use) - and that will depend on the local climate. Your local energy company, or local municipality, might have figures for that.

So, once you've got electricity demand, you can find out how much area you'll need for PV.

Power produced = efficiency x area of panels x average sun power per unit area.

So if you know the amount of power you need, then you can use the efficiency and the average sun power per unit area to calculate the area of panels you need.

You can then do a similar calculation with solar thermal energy, using the same figure for average sun power per unit area, but the different figures for demand, and for efficiency.

You might find this book useful: Australian Sustainable Energy- by the numbers - you can download the pdf for free from a link on that page.

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I've just finished writing my thesis, I'd be happy to give you any advice (however bad it may be). I think that you need to make a plan first, it seems quite vague.

The main question is: How feasible are these two sources of electricity.

  1. You will probably want to look at the profile of energy use in Alice Springs. That will vary as energy use changes through day and night and summer and winter.

  2. You may want to find out the output of the solar panels during the day and night/ summer and winter and see the benefits and difficulties with using solar energy. Compare to other energy sources, fossil, wind, nuclear are probably the most common around the world.

  3. You could look at storing the energy, so if you can produce a lot of energy when it is not needed and use it when it is most needed.

  4. Look at the time scales of production and implementation.

  5. You'll might want to compare the environmental aspects of the two energy sources compared to other sources.

Always source your data (not wikipedia) and opinions. Don't get bogged down in details which you don't understand, they are probably not relevant for a high school project. Go to the library, school or state! The conclusion is for giving you opinion.

If you come across equations in your research, or you want to formulate something and you are not sure (averages, efficiency). Just post it up and someone might be able to help.

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