Episode 4 – The Sun

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10 Things to Know About… The Sun

The energy from 1.5 hours of sunlight on the earth’s surface is sufficient to meet annual global energy consumption – so how here in Ireland can we fully reap the benefits of such an amazing, renewable resource?


Aoibhinn meets solar expert Prof Peter Gallagher who discusses the basic physics of how the sun generates and releases energy, and explains how our understanding of those processes can help predict how solar events could affect the earth. Peter has made studying the sun his life’s work and is the driving force behind the LOFAR project, an exciting new radio telescope at Birr Castle.


Solar is currently the fastest growing power generation technology worldwide and though it may come as a surprise to some, Ireland is in a fantastic position to take advantage of the solar energy sector. Aoibhinn visits the first ‘solar farm’ on the island, a 30-acre solar farm beside Belfast International Airport which will supply a quarter of the airport’s annual electricity and meets SEAI’s solar energy expert Brian Denvir to find out about the exciting opportunities for Irish researchers in the solar energy sector.



Capturing that market will rely on innovation from the tech sector, and we meet Ed Duffy from NinesPV in Tallaght IT, who has developed a new etching technology for silicon wafers to increases the amount of light absorbed in solar cells and increase the overall efficiency of the solarPV manufacturing process.

Of course battery storage is the holy grail for solar and indeed all forms of renewable energy, and Irish company Solo Energy are utilizing cutting edge battery technology to install a ‘virtual power plant’ across Ireland. By installing batteries at multiple locations around the country, their “Flexigrid” software allows the software in each battery to ‘talk’ to the grid and remotely control when it charges (through the existing solar PV) or discharges (to storage heaters for example) according to the current cost and availability of renewable energy on the grid. We see exactly how the technology works when a new system is installed at Ballyvolane Fire Station in Cork.



The Sun’s impact on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, but in Weird Science, Fergus ask if our stellar neighbour could be responsible for whale strandings??

Weird Science The Sun Still


And finally, what if we could replicate the sun’s power here on earth? Jonathan travels to Marseille, to meet the Irish researchers who are working at ITER, the world’s most complex engineering project aiming to recreate the awesome power of sun through nuclear fusion.

And finally, instead of just harnessing and storing it, what if we could actually replicate the sun’s power here on earth? Based on how our own sun produces energy, Nuclear Fusion has the potential to supply humanity with energy for as long as we need it – if only we can figure out how to harness the reaction! We travel to ITER in the south of France, which is the most ambitious and complex engineering project in history that aims to prove the feasibility of nuclear fusion, to meet Castlebar native and DCU graduate Deirdre Boilson, and Mike Walsh from Co Cork who are heading up two of the key divisions!




Check it out on RTE One, 8.30pm, Monday 4th December!

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