- Renewable & Alternative Energy
Solar Energy: The Facts
History of Solar Power
Solar power may be one source of alternative energy so before you invest in it here are some facts about solar energy. First off using the sun as a source of energy in not something recent. The Romans and Greeks would build their houses in a way to maximize the heat from the sun so they can warm their homes. Using mirros to focus the sun's energy they could make a fire or heat something up. What we think of solar energy today was discover in 1873 by a French physicist named Edmund Bequerel. He discovered the photovoltaic effect. He had two metal electrodes that made up a electrolytic cell. When exposed to sunlight it generated an electric current. This is the process of what goes on when using a photovoltaic cell or a solar cell(panel).
Solar Power Cells
There are basically two ways to utilize solar energy. The first way is to use photovoltaic cells or also known as solar panels. The way that solar cells work is by converting sunlight into DC or a direct current of electricity. This power can be sent to a battery or used to directly power a electronic device. Groups of PV cells can be electrically configured into modules and arrays that can be put on top of houses or any type of roofing. Then it can be used to operate motors or store in batteries to use for later operations.
Future Psossibilities and Advantages
Now there are almost endless possibilities for what solar cell can power. Inventors all over the world are working on cars that are solar powered. While this seems like a good idea it is however not practical right now. A solar car is completely covered with solar panels and travels about 25 miles per hour. Because they are covered with panels they only seat one person. So while you can’t drive a solar car you can use solar panels on the roof of your house and to help you save money on your electricity bill. It can reduce your bill by 15-25% in the first few months and up to 60% over a long period of time. If you are not interested in having solar panels on your roof there are other ways to use solar power. Using the lights with a solar cell on top can save you money by not having to use electricity to light up your yards. For those of you that are always powering you cell phones, iPods or cameras, you can use a solar charger. You can either build one yourself or buy one. Solio is a company that makes solar power chargers that can charge all of your electronic gadets and save you money!
Another source of solar energy is solar thermal. This is done by using large arrays of mirrors to focus sunlight to heat a boiler that then produces steam which turns a turbine generator to create electricity. This process of boiling water to create energy is the same process that is in coal plants. The difference is coal plants produce greenhouse gases and solar thermal does not. The disadvantage of using solar thermal is that the mirrors take up a lot of land and it’s hard to maintain all of the mirrors. If some how we could make solar thermal less spacious then it could be a big scale way to generate clean energy to the people. Although in the process of transmitting this energy there is energy that is lost. So if we can fix these problems then perhaps we can move towards a society that gets energy from the sun.
Another way to use the power of the sun to help cut your electricity costs is not by laying panels on your roof. Many people use solar heat to heat up their hot water heaters or pools. Using this can save you money on your electric bill especially if you use a lot of hot water. Passive solar systems can heat buildings while producing no greenhouse gases. Solar water heaters pump the pool water through pipes on the roof and the sun heats up the water that is then pumped to your pool.
Solar Thermal Pictures
Other Solar Facts
There are many ways to help save money around the home using the sun. By replacing your old windows with new energy efficient ones, you can keep the heat out in the summer and keep the heat in in the winter to save money on your air conditioning and heating. There are many ways that you can use the power of the sun, you just have to get creative. In fact there is one company that got so creative that they are making solar paint. Solar paints are nano technology based paint, aluminum mylar that conducts electricity, the suns light hits and moves electrons to create electricity. If this technology increases then almost anything that we paint could produce electricity. They want to use this paint on streets and roads, or places that receive a lot of sunlight. Possibly even paint your house with it and create your own electricity.
Some advantages of solar energy are that it is non-polluting, abundant source and relatively free. It doesn’t have to be pumped out of the ground and doesn’t need to be refined. Amount of energy that is created in manufacturing solar power is paid for within a few years. Makes roof last longer, 25 year warranty. Tax credits for solar panels state and federal, 2,000 tax credits from federal.
The disadvantages are that not every place gets the same amount of sunlight and PV modules have to be aimed in the direction where it receives full exposure to sun in order to generate enough electricity to be transmitted. Mortgage goes up. Net metering, not a uniform net metering or uniform connection law. Create uniform net metering and connection laws would bring the price of solar down.
It may seem like solar power is the answer to the energy crisis but solar power is still not developed enough to supply all of the energy needs. It may be a few years from now or twenty years from now that solar power is widely used. Solar power has come a long way since the 1800’s from the invention of photovoltaic cells to mirror arrays. The abundance of solar power is what drives the pressure to further develop the technology. Since solar power has no greenhouse gases it is environmentally friendly. Whether its solar thermal or solar systems, solar power is here to stay and just maybe some day in the future everyone will be utilizing it.
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