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Optical Components and the Rise of Renewables

26th Jan 2021

Optical Components and the Rise of Renewables

 Here, Knight Optical – the leading supplier of on-spec, metrology-tested optical components – looks at how the pandemic has created a sea change in how we want to live our lives on planet earth. The consequences of COVID-19 have resulted in recognition for a greener, cleaner planet – and renewable technology is one of the critical ingredients. 

Suffice to say, 2020 was a challenging year for us all. In March, when we were all ordered to ‘stay home’ to save lives, the world became enshrouded in uncertainty, anxiety and, of course, fear. Whilst it was a year that we undoubtedly want to erase from our memories, there was a significant element of positivity that emanated from the population – that is set to change the world we once knew.

As the world slowed its pace, we all had time to contemplate the effects we have had on the planet over the years. And, as more of us became more appreciative of our natural environment, there came a desire to live in a more environmentally friendly manner. This newfound passion was well-demonstrated at the end of last year by several reports on the renewable sector’s resilience amid the pandemic. In fact, an article by the International Energy Agency (IAE) advises that the industry will grow this year quicker than the past six years1.

Innovations such as a ‘renewable energy village’ that’s set for Aberdeenshire, Scotland, by 20262, and game-changing fuel discoveries – such as Honeywell’s simplified renewable diesel technology3 – are exciting results reported so far this year. With leading names worldwide continually reporting new findings, we are undoubtedly set to see more of these cutting-edge technologies imminently. With exponential growth and innovation on the horizon, the surge in demand for the optical components that are integral to these systems’ operations is set to mirror this increase.

So, what optics are used for renewable technologies? Here, we explore some familiar and brand-new uses for optical components within renewable devices – as well as their installation and maintenance.

Photovoltaics (PV)

Perhaps the most commonly recognised form of renewable technology is photovoltaics – also referred to as PV. From large-scale solar farms to PV panels on homes, photovoltaics are ubiquitous throughout the world, and chances are you’re never too far from one. In fact, solar panels are now commonly incorporated into new-build housing developments to meet the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) requirements and help adhere to those all-important Building Regulations.

Although various PV cells are on the market, they all essentially perform the same function – harvesting solar energy and converting it into electricity. Here at Knight Optical, we have worked with engineers and designers on an abundance of PV projects. Particularly popular for these applications are our premium quality Fresnel Lenses. With two options available, Custom-Made and Stock Fresnel Lenses, we have the right components for all types of projects – whether you’re looking for optics with short lead times or project-specific Lenses for mass production. What’s more, with customisable opportunities, you can pick the substrate that’s best suited to your PV application, such as PMMA Acrylic and Borosilicate.

Wind Turbines 

Drive around the English countryside, and you’ll see wind turbines in the dozens standing proud amid rolling hills and vast open space. Much like PV panels, wind turbines use natural resources and convert that power into energy. Using wind to produce electricity, these turbines do precisely the opposite of a fan that you’d find in the office on a hot summer’s day. However, it’s not just on land that you’ll find these majestic giants. Similar to solar farms, wind turbines are employed for wind farms. You’ll find these offshore, where they take advantage of the wind on the high seas.

At Knight Optical, our renewable technology optics portfolio extends to wind turbine applications, particularly those that use light detection and ranging (LiDAR) – a technology commonly used within the autonomous vehicle sector. It’s here that an abundance of our optical components is used, such as protective optical windows like BK7 Windows and Achromatic Doublet Lenses, for example.

It’s not only the devices themselves that play host to our Custom-Made and Stock Optical Components. The engineering, maintenance, installation and repair of these systems also require an arsenal of equipment that demand high-quality optical components. For example, for wind turbines, inspection is necessary to ensure they perform to the required standards. Thermal imaging cameras, incorporating Infrared (IR) Optics, are commonly used to inspect the internal components and guarantee their performance.

Ground Source Heat Pumps 

A popular method to heat homes using renewable energy, ground source heat pumps are gaining traction within the residential housing market – particularly amongst self-builders and home renovators. These systems work by extracting heat from the ground, using pipes buried outside, and transport that ground sourced heat inside a home to warm up radiators and provide hot water. In some cases, where space is limited, boreholes are often used to draw heat from the ground. To better understand what lies beneath, borehole inspection can be undertaken, where robust cameras are lowered into the opening to assess conditions and ensure the environment is suitable for ground source heat pump processes.

These cameras are equipped with durable optical components – such as Sapphire and BK-7 (or equivalent) Lenses and Windows – to withstand the often harsh environments they operate within. They can even be coated with Optical Coatings, such as oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings, for example, to ensure they perform when subjected to water an oil. Here at Knight Optical, we stock and custom manufacture a range of suitable optics for borehole inspection. What’s more, our portfolio of Optical Coatings ensures your systems will perform to the best of their ability.

Why Choose Knight Optical? 

Here at Knight Optical, we supply a range of optical components for renewable technology devices, installation and maintenance applications. Discerning engineers and manufacturers rely on Knight Optical not only for the premium quality of our output and in-house state-of-the-art Metrology Laboratory and QA Department‘s capabilities but also because – as well as a range of Stock Optics (available for next-day dispatch) – we also offer a range of sought-after Custom-Made Optical Components.

If you are looking for premium-quality, bespoke optical components, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Technical Sales Team today.