- Renewable & Alternative Energy
Solar: The Everlasting Energy Source
What you need to know about solar energy
There has never been a better time than now to take advantage of the
numerous benefits of solar power. Many states have made solar power
affordable, cost effective, providing a 10% return on investment and in
many cases solar power will pay for itself almost instantly.
The utilization of solar power has never offered more benefits than now. Not only can the installation of solar power pay for itself almost instantly, but given the current world political climate and the threat of terrorist actions to disrupt cheap oil supplies make it very prudent.
Many states offer a 10% return on investments to encourage its use. The simple fact is that installing a solar electric system in your home is now cost effective for the first time. And you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you have now become part of the energy solution as world oil supplies continue to dwindle.
In the state of California the cost of solar power in 1978 was well over $300 per watt. Today, with incentives offered by the state, that price has now dropped to less than $6 per watt- a staggering 98% reduction in cost of solar energy.
In addition to the reduction in cost of installing a solar power system, your home’s value increases $20 for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills- this according to the National Appraisal Institute.
Therefore, installing a solar power system in your home costing $16,000 would increase you home’s value by $17,520. That’s a net gain of $1520 the day you install the system.
On April 25, 1950 Bell Laboratories introduced the first silicon solar cell. Bell called its invention “The first successful device (solar cell) to convert useful amounts of the sun’s energy directly into electricity.” The NY Times heralded it as “The beginning of a New Era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams-The harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for uses of civilization.”
99% of the world’s energy comes from sunlight or solar energy. Everyday enough free sunlight energy falls on the Earth to supply our energy needs for 4-5 years at our present rate of consumption. At the equator, the Sun provides 1000 Watts per square meter on the Earth’s surface.
The amount of solar energy we take today in no way diminishes the amount we can take tomorrow or any time in the future.
Why Consider Solar
When the electrical utility bill is increasing each and every month you
can do a few things. You can cry and pull out your hair; refuse to pay
and get cut off and have no utilities; you could work harder and more
hours each month to keep up the rising costs; or you could invest in
other alternative sources of energy to cut the electrical utility bill.
One of these alternative sources of energy is solar energy. And indeed,
you will need to invest that means putting in your own (or borrowed)
money, but the investment can make a huge difference for now and many
years to come.
Solar energy is derived from the power emitted by the sun to produce energy. The sun emits enough energy on the Earth in one day to supply the needs of the world for one year. The amount of solar power that the Earth receives from the sun is estimated to be 770 trillion kilowatts or an amount 5,000 times bigger than the sum of all energy resources we are using, may it be nuclear, geothermal, or gravitational energy. The estimated remaining life of the sun is around 4.5 billion years.
Solar power is produced primarily through the use of photovoltaic cells, or commonly known as the solar cells. The process of converting solar power into electricity is as follows: The solar cells are placed under direct sunlight. The rays of the sun hits the cells initiating a chemical reaction that creates an electric current. This current is later turned into electricity.
There are two classification of solar power: passive solar and active solar. The first classification does not make use of panel systems or other moving mechanisms to produce solar power. Instead, it involves planning a structure in such a way that it can capture the rays of the sun with windows, tanks, and other permanent structure. This system can be used to provide heat to houses, water, and so on.
The second classification involves the solar panels or the group of solar cells. These panels are placed in such away that its exposure to the sunlight is maximized. It will convert sunlight to electricity, which is transformed later on from direct current (DC) electricity to alternate current (AC) electricity, and consumed it immediately or store it in batteries. It may be also fed into the grid system of the local utility.
The Pros and Cons of Solar Power Systems
There are some disadvantages of using solar power. These are the
* Initial costs on installation of solar power systems can be quite expensive.
* Cloudy weather condition can be a problem in collecting solar power for some systems.
* If you live in area where there is little sun shine this will be a problem.
* Solar power can not be produced at night.
There are numerous advantages of using solar power. These are enumerated in the following items:
* Solar power is almost limitless. Remember that the remaining life span of the sun is estimated to be 4.5 billion years.
* It is relatively abundant.
* It can be absorbed, reflected, transmitted, and insulated.
* It can be stored in batteries for nighttime use.
Using solar power is not only a solid investment for years to come it also saves the environment. Thus this investment is not doesn't only saves you money but you making this world a better place to live in for years to come. Investing in solar power is worth your money, don't overlook the potential.
Considerations and Additional Tips
Installation: Unless you do extensive research and are a certified roof installation contractor, it would be best to hire someone to install your solar panel. There are many things that you have to consider, including the roof materials that the panel will be secured to, the degrees of latitude and whether you are above or below the equator, the angle of your roof and more.
Application: It's important to decide whether you want to go with Photovoltaic or Thermal, and whether you are able to use this given the climate of your particular location. Only recently there have been products emerging that utilize both technologies, and if you can afford the initial investment, then you will not only save the earth, but in a short time you can save a lot in your bank account.
- Solar Thermal is used to heat water for various applications, not just hot water from the tap, but also for radiator heating systems. This can be used in many climates, but in sub-zero temperatures the hydraulics can actually freeze at night, therefore causing failures in the system.
- Photovoltaic cells are used to generate electrical energy, but the hotter they get, the less effective they are. The closer you are to the equator, the more control measures need to be put in place to prevent the panel from overheating, and the more level the panel will need to be.
Initial investment and return on investment (ROI): Not all solar panels are the same. Different materials used for the cells come at different costs, and unfortunately the higher cost materials are also the most effective. The size of the panel (number of cells) will also determine how much energy can be produced. The more surface area utilized, the more opportunity you have to collect solar energy for the conversion. If you can't afford much of an initial investment, you may want to consider starting with a smaller, less expensive panel. You can always upgrade or add another panel later. Some of the panels are expected to last 20-30 years, and it is possible to actually eliminate your electrical bills. If you're spending $100 a month on electricity, that's $1200 a year and $24,000 after 20 years. I have seen panels (not including installation) for as little as $200 and as much as $5000. An installer in my area was advertising a photovoltaic panel and solar thermal water heating system with installation for $9,000 last year. You will need to check with your local contractors to determine your own options.
I wish you the best of luck in your conversion to the green energy alternatives. I have an extensive background in the field, so your questions are welcomed.