Solar power is a form of renewable energy in which electricity is
generated using sunlight. Solar power is generated from one of two
types of configurations: photovoltaic arrays and concentrating solar
Photovoltaic (PV) power
PV cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV technology is
the dominant form of solar technology based on number of
applications. It has the advantage of being modular, using PV cells
to create PV panels and using PV panels to create PV arrays.
These arrays can be varying sizes depending on the user’s needs
and the sunlight available.
PV comes in two forms: crystalline silicon and thin-film panels.
Crystalline silicon panels are the solar panels that can often be
seen mounted on rooftops. They can be fixed or track the
movement of the sun, which allows them to capture more sunlight.
Crystalline silicon is the more efficient technology with average
efficiency between 13.5% and 17.5%, with best-in-class efficiency
between 17% and 19%.
Thin-film solar cells are the fastest growing segment of the PV market. In contrast to the crystalline
silicon panels, the thin-film panels are amorphous and can be mounted on surfaces such as
windows and skylights, making them ideal for diffuse applications. Thin-film modules have an
average efficiency between 6.5% and 10% with best-in-class efficiency between 7% and 11%.
Concentrating solar power (CSP)
CSP technology uses sunlight to generate steam to power a conventional turbine and is best used
in areas with high solar exposure and low humidity. Mirrors collect sunlight and focus it on a
receiver that then transmits the heat to a liquid that is either used to generate steam or power an
engine. Existing CSP technologies can track the sun using a one-axis or two-axis tracking system.
A single axis tracker follows the sun east to west and a two-axis tracker also follows the seasonal
declination of the sun. CSP plants typically require about 800 gallons of water per megawatt-hour
generated for cooling purposes but this amount can be reduced by installing a dry evaporative
cooling system at the expense of efficiency losses and additional installation capital.
The primary form of CSP currently in use is the parabolic trough, which uses sunlight to generate
steam that spins a conventional turbine generator. The power tower is another form of CSP that
redirects sunlight to generate steam and spin a conventional turbine generator. By contrast, the
third form of CSP is the dish/engine system that redirects sunlight to heat liquid used to move
pistons in an engine.
AEP project spotlight
Our Indiana Michigan Power subsidiary
completed AEP’s first large-scale solar
project in late 2015. The Deer Creek
Solar Facility, just south of Marion,
Indiana, can generate up to 2.5
megawatts of electricity. Three other
facilities in Indiana and Michigan will
begin generating solar power in 2016.
Combined, the four facilities will have a
capacity of nearly 15 MW and produce
enough energy to power 2,000 homes
Recent advancements in
technology have allowed
for significant gains to be
realized in the efficiencies
and cost-effectiveness of
solar energy. As solar
energy becomes more
viable and customers are
more interested in it as a
resource, now is the right
time to move forward with
a utility-scale solar power
pilot project. AEP’s Deer
Creek solar installation in
Indiana is an opportunity
for innovation to serve our
customers in new and
I&M’s Deer Creek Solar Facility