5 fun facts about solar energy

By ENGIE - 20 July 2022 - 14:18

You thought you knew all about it but solar energy (still) has a lot of surprises in store. We take a closer look!


1. Let there be light!

The term "solar energy" implies that it's better to fit solar panels in Marseille than in London, the hours of sunlight being much greater. However, it isn't the sun's heat that powers the "solar" panels, rather its light radiation, present whatever the weather and latitude. In other words, if it's daylight it works! So yes, sunlight does increase output. But production is constant throughout the day. In fact, England and Germany are better equipped in solar panels than France. Which just goes to show!


2. Sheep are a solar park's best friend!

Who would have believed it? Flocks of ewes, sheep and lambs help maintain the ground in solar parks.  These natural lawnmowers graze around the photovoltaic panels. This is a form of conservation grazing. "Agrivoltaics" meanwhile is when a solar park is designed for agricultural activities. From rearing animals to market gardening, from cereal crops to trees or vineyards: anything's possible! 


3. Horizontal or vertical, fixed or movable: solar panels in all shapes and sizes! 

We were used to horizontal panels but the Camelia pilot project brought vertical bifacial panels to France! Installed on pasture land in 2022, they will be the object of a five-year study into their impact on crops and animals. Crops can be rotated because machinery can manoeuvre around the photovoltaic "hedgerows". Technology is evolving, enabling panels to be adapted to their environment: they can provide shelter for animals (from the sun or the rain), shade for orchards and other crops, a structure for attaching anti-hail nets, etc. And mobile canopies can even be moved, not according to the sun's path, but according to the needs of the plants growing underneath. Recent innovations are now offering more efficient (bifacial east-west facing) panels with a smaller footprint, which can be used on roadsides or along railway tracks!


4. Take your PV panel for a hike! 

Photovoltaic panels aren't just for the roof or the ground! Fitted on a camper van, a bike or even a rucksack, they can be used to charge a smartphone or run small appliances.  Of course, you need to choose the lightest, most flexible panels for hiking or cycling (they clip on to a rucksack or luggage rack). Did you know there is flexible photovoltaic film at the entrance to the French Open's Roland-Garros stadium? 


5. Photovoltaic panels can grow strawberries

Another way to combine agriculture and solar power? These transparent photovoltaic panels for greenhouses let light through and can even benefit crop growth! Find out more about these innovations by following this link!