The Magic of Solar Power
The Electric Society
The generation of greenhouse gases, which increase temperatures on the Earth’s surface, is caused by industrialization, deforestation and pollution. Plants and oceans are not able to absorb the quantities of carbon dioxide we produce every day. Humans’ energy needs grow day by day as the living standards in many developing countries rise while the industrialized countries that have been polluting the environment ever since the industrial revolution keep intensifying the use of electric appliances. We are constantly distancing ourselves from nature and buying more and more electric appliances for entertainment purposes: new flat screen TVs, new video games, new cell phones and new inventions such as Wii, Kindle and Kinect. Nowadays, people are gaining weight due to unhealthy nutritional habits and less and less physical activities, but also due to the replacement of manual activities by machines. We use electric juicers instead of pressing oranges by hand and electrical mixers instead of using our hands to knead the dough. We prefer electrical knives, electrical knife sharpeners, electrical pans and pots, microwaves, toasters, electrical water cookers and everything that is powered by electricity instead of using conventional utensils. We take the car instead of walking or riding our bike and our kids are now playing with electrical toys or their PlayStation instead of in the sandbox or instead of spending time outside with their roller blades. And why are we developing all of these ultra-modern appliances and toys? Because first of all we want to save time, we are always under stress and second of all, because we want to be comfortable and have as much fun as possible. Fun and entertainment have become our major concerns.
What is happening to our planet?
In view of the depletion of fossil fuels, the pollution caused by its use and growing problems related to global warming, it is essential to concentrate on renewable energy resources. Ironically, only 7% of the world’s energy needs is powered by renewable energy while fossil fuels still generate 93% of the world’s energy. Yet, environmental problems such as the melting of the poles caused by the rapid increase of water temperatures lead to a series of consequences such as habitat loss for species forcing them to adapt or to become extinct, water acidification and overfishing. The problem is not that the global climate is changing but at the rate that it is changing. There were ice ages and there was natural global warming, but it was happening over thousands of years while today, the rate is unprecedented and significant changes have happened over the past hundred years or less. The ice at the North Pole is rapidly disappearing and the first ice-free summer is expected by 2040 or earlier.
How are we going to feel the effects of global warming?
• The sea level is expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches by the end of this century. Provided it only rises 4 inches, various islands in the South Seas and large parts of Southeast Asia could be flooded. Some hundred million people live in the affected coastal regions. They would be forced to leave their homes which could lead to massive migrations and national and transnational conflicts.
• An increase of extreme weather conditions is expected such as wildfires, droughts, heat waves, strong tropical storms and desert extensions leading to food shortages in numerous places. Europe already experienced a heat wave in 2003 leading to over 14000 deaths in France alone.
• Millions of species face the risk of extinction due to shrinking habitats, changing environments and acidifying oceans. At the North Pole, polar bears are facing fatal consequences because of the melting ice.
• Increasing amounts of warm water could have an alternating effect on the Gulf Stream and the ocean’s circulation system in general. This could lead do a mini-ice age in Western European countries.
Is there room for hope?
Humans have demonstrated that through amazing innovations, they are able make a step towards a healthier and greener planet that offers sufficient resources for all species. Initiatives for the replacement of fossil fuels have been taken up in many countries. Using the energy of the sun, wind and water to power our increasing global energy needs is becoming a global objective.
Why does everybody talk about solar energy?
The sun is the cleanest and most efficient source we have. It has existed for 4.5 billions of years and provides us with light, heat and energy without which biological life on earth would not be possible. It also defines the seasons, the harvests and sleep patterns of many creatures on Earth. The solar energy that reaches the earth in the form of electromagnetic radiation can be converted into other forms of energy such as heat and electricity.
Human civilizations and other biological life have always used solar energy. The most natural process of solar energy conversion is called photosynthesis which evolved around 3,500 million years ago. Through a bio-chemical reaction where water and CO² are processed, oxygen is produced as a byproduct of photosynthesis, a process that our food chain is dependent on.
Solar energy was even the source of fossil fuels that originated millions of years ago from disintegrated plants and animals inside the Earth’s crust which are today converted into non-renewable resources such as oil, gas and coal.
One of the simplest forms of energy use is the heat generated by the sun that dries our clothing. In the past, we used solar energy to heat our water. This was however substituted by water heaters powered by coal or gas.The sun is also responsible for temperature differences which cause winds that power turbines.
The direct conversion of solar power into electricity is realized through photovoltaic technology. This involves solar modules made up of solar cells that capture energy from sunlight that is converted into electricity. Another method is concentrated solar power involving the concentration of solar energy and its conversion to heat which powers a heat engine that is connected to an electrical power generator.
The leading countries in renewable energy production
The French government is planning to generate 23% of its electricity from renewable energy sources including hydroelectric energy by 2020.
Bulgaria plans to finance three wind farms generating 200 MW in northeast Bulgaria near the Black Sea on the basis of the Clever Synergies Investment Fund.
Greece is planning to install solar power installations with a generative potential of 10 MW.
India aims to produce 15% of its overall electricity production from renewable energy by 2020.
China has become the largest global investor in renewable energy and is now a leader in the industry.
Meanwhile what can we do to contribute to saving the environment?
How about using solar-powered energy devices?
Solar Chargers for your cell phone, iPhone and iPod are perfect for emergency power and power on the go. The charging capacity using the solar panel to charge the device amounts to 50-60%.
Solar Laptop Charger Backpacks charge your laptop, cell phone, tablet and digital camera. They contain solar panels that generate power in sunlight. If exposed to sunlight for 1 hour, your laptop can be provided with a run time of approximately 30 minutes.
A solar-powered keyboard charges itself with indoor lighting or sunlight and can stay charged for at least three months in total darkness.
Lego now offers kids the possibility to learn about solar and wind powered energy. A renewable energy set lets them experiment with solar wind and water power and it contains instructions on building a solar-powered car or a wind turbine made out of Lego bricks. It lets kids investigate the supply, transfer, accumulation, conversion and consumption of renewable energy.
The aluminium airplane with solar powered spinning propellers is an unusual executive toy which is great for relieving stress. Its propellers move in sunlight or under a desk lamp.
Now you can find Digital Video Camcorders powered by solar panels as battery rechargers.
The possibilities are endless and this is only the beginning of a future where appliances and devices powered by solar energy will be used by every modern household. Until then, we have to
1) become aware of the environmental crisis we are facing
2) educate our children accordingly and ensure that renewable energy technologies are mandatorily integrated into the schools’ science curriculums
3) save as much energy as we can every day
4) use means of transport that don’t pollute the environment excessively (public transport, bicycles, etc.)
5) replace common electrical devices by environmentally friendly products (such as solar products).
Intelligent minds will continue to be born and by that I mean people that will see the beauty of our planet, the necessity to save its resources and its inhabitants and the will to develop technology powered by renewable resources and develop alternatives to deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems. We have to learn to live with nature, not against it and we have to learn to use technologies without destroying the earth’s atmosphere. I believe in this and that is why I will continue to fight for it.