Since time began, the sun was seen as a source of energy. Suprisingly only about 10% of solar energy is actually used. Maybe if we become more aware of its possible uses and its capacity as a sustainable power source we would promote and use more solar energy.
Solar Energy Uses
It may surprise you to find out that solar energy is in reality the source of various sustainable powers such as radiation, wind and waves. Solar energy has many uses – it can give us light, heating and cooling. It can be deployed through technology to power countless things, such as cooking equipment, distillation, hot water systems, and disinfection.
Technology and Sunlight
The sun produces immeasurable amounts of energy. This energy needs to be captured using technology to turn itself into something that can be used by mankind. There are two types of solar energy, passive or active solar energy. The distinction between them depends on how the heat from the sun is gathered and channelled to power things that run on electricity.
Active solar technology uses solar energy (photovoltaic or PV) panels, combined with solar thermal collectors, and then channels it using mechanical or electrical equipment. Passive solar technology is simply a system to capture the sun’s useful rays, such as a skylight.
Creating Electricity From The Sun
We are all familiar with the term “solar panel”; solar panels change the heat from the sun into the electric power by means of what is called the photoelectric effect. Using concentrated solar energy is not new. It was used to perform useful tasks as far back as ancient China.
To concentrate solar power, a series of mirrors and lenses is used to focus light to one area which creates a single beam. Legend has it that Archimedes used polished shields to concentrate sunlight and repel in invading army. There are several technologies used today to concentrate solar energy to produce power. Three of the more common are: Solar tower, solar trough and parabolic dish.
The most apparent obstacle to the use of solar energy as a sustainable power source is that there is no sun at night. Modern times require constant supply. This is the reason that the capability to store solar energy is an fundamental part of solar technology. Thermal storage systems can store solar energy. New scientific discoveries also paved the way for thermal mass storage systems, varying storage capacity and function by storing energy during off peak hours and varying supply at peak consumption hours.
It usually takes a crisis for people to really look at other possibilities, and solar energy began getting attention again after the 1979 oil crisis and the 1973 oil embargo. Solar technology made it’s first ‘modern’ appearance in the 1800s with the inventions of the first solar powered steam engine.
Now, with the growing costs of electricity, the volatile cost of oil, and its declining supply have paved the way for solar power to come to the fore. A greater awareness of environmental damage done by traditional power sources has led companies to create affordable solar energy solutions and make them commercially available. Purchasing a commercial system is still an pricey initial outlay, but the maintenance costs are usually low and the life of the system is usually about 20 years.Tags: concentrated solar energy, energy photovoltaic, hot water systems, pv panels, types of solar energy