Solar energy is the energy produced by the sun. During the fusion process that the sun undergoes during its lifetime, it emits radiation. The fusion process produces many different wavelengths of radiation and sub-atomic particles. Collecting and converting usable energy from solar radiation can be accomplished by using many different forms of technology and includes various direct and indirect methods of harnessing the solar energy. There are basically two ways to use this solar radiation, by collecting the heat from the light, and photovoltaic conversion of the light. There are many different methods of collecting the heat and converting it to electricity, and many ways of converting the light as well.
One of the simplest ways that people use solar heat energy is by using greenhouses. A greenhouse is built so that it can best collect the sunlight and heat that it receives from the sun. Using special glass or plastics, the greenhouse and everything within it retains the heat energy from the sun. This heat is trapped inside the greenhouse by the roof and walls allowing plants to grow in an otherwise too cold climate. By combining various technologies and the use of alternative power sources such as electricity from the grid, a controlled growing climate can be maintained to optimize specialty and agricultural crop growth. A large greenhouse could make use of a solar updraft tower to generate most or all of the additional electricity it may require to keep the climate controlled.
A solar updraft tower is a simple use of the excess heat generated by light heat that the greenhouse receives. Hot air rises and is channeled from along the ceilings of the greenhouse and directed into a tower. The hot air rises and the turbine blades are pushed by the hot air rushing past them to generate electricity. Storing any excess power in batteries for the night when there is no sun can also keep the use of grid power to a minimum.
Expanding on the collection of heat from the sun, there are power plants in the hot sunny desert areas that collect the heat from the sun and convert the heat to electricity. Some of these solar energy plants make use of curved, highly reflective and focused surfaces to optimize the collection of heat from the sunlight. They focus the light onto a central tube that is filled with synthetic oil that gets very hot. This hot oil is then piped into a boiler filled with water that is flashed into steam from the heat of the oil. The steam produced is then used to turn turbines that produce electricity. This is a highly effective way to convert solar energy into usable power.
Another way to collect the energy from the sun is through direct photovoltaic conversion. Here the light is converted into electricity by using special materials called photodiodes that are made into cells. The photodiodes emit electrons when the photons from the sunlight hits them. By using arrays of the special cells and electrically connecting them together, enough power is produced by the transduction process to make it a worthwhile alternative energy.
As more and more people demand the use of free solar energy, governments as well as businesses are subsidizing researchers, and these combined efforts are meeting this demand by coming up with materials that can produce more and more energy from a given amount of sunlight. Solar electricity produced by arrays of solar panels is now almost as cost effective as using petroleum, coal, and nuclear generated power.
The most common method of using solar energy is to store them in photovoltaic cells. This method was first used in U.S. space satellites in 1950s. The cells are made from silicon. When sunlight enters the cells, it causes the electrons to move about. The electrons then move towards the front side of the solar panels. This causes an imbalance of the electrons between the front and back side of the panels. On joining the two surfaces, a conductor is formed, just like a wire, and current begins to flow. The individual solar cells are arranged together in a PV module and the modules are grouped together to form an array. This current is used to charge cells and this energy is used to light lamps, tube lights and also to drive cars now. The current can also be used to run appliances.
Another method of using solar energy is to direct the solar rays to a convergence point using a curved reflector and then make a current flowing system like a photo cell and store energy. This method is now used in India and U.S. Our planet receives enough raw energy in the form of sunlight in sixty minutes to illuminate all of the worlds lights for a full year. Unfortunately, a very small part of it can be harnessed so most of the population still gets most of its energy from power plants that burn fossil fuels. Fortunately for our environment, we have recently seen an increasing trend in the demand for solar energy. This is partly due to the fact that solar panels are becoming cheaper as technology advances. At the equator, the Sun provides approximately 1000 watts of energy per square meter on the earths surface. This means that 1 square meter of each panel can generate approximately 100 GW of raw power per year, which is enough to illuminate more than 50,000 houses. The entire area that would need to be covered by solar panels to power the entire world for a year would be the equivalent to one percent of the entire space of the Sahara Desert. The amount of power solar panels can generate on a given day depends on a few variables like smog, cloudy days, low temperatures and humidity.
Solar panel farms are a lot like other normal power plants with the only big difference being that most power plants get their energy from fossil fuels. And when conventional plants burn fossil fuels, they generate the by products which are contributing to global warming. Solar panel farms or solar heat plants (or CSP plants) absorb the rays of the sun to generate electrical energy. This process of energy conversion in solar heat plants is rather simple. The panels absorb the rays of the sun, which then shines on the power receiver. In this receiver, the energy is converted into steam from the suns rays. The steam is taken to tanks where it will be used to spin turbines and generate electricity. The process is clean because it requires no fossil fuels to be burned. It is safe for the environment and doesn’t contribute to global warming like conventional power plants. If more solar panel farms are implemented, the demand for oil will be reduced sharply. Today, there are many households that use solar panels for energy and more people are adding panels every day. When this demand for solar energy and other alternatives goes up, fewer people will use gas and fossil fuels, and the prices for these will surely drop as well.
Even though the initial investment into your solar panel system is a bit expensive, the panels will undoubtedly pay for themselves in the long run. Not only do you save money and perhaps even make some with your panels, you help the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and emissions. These systems are so durable they have been known to last years. PV cells are supposed to stay good anywhere from twenty-five to forty years. Most suppliers of solar panels have a standard twenty-five year warranty.
Finally, solar panels take minimal maintenance and they can be placed basically anywhere that gets a good amount of sunlight all year. Scientists worldover say that the future lies with solar energy. Using solar energy for home use like heating, cooking, driving car and for all other uses like charging your mobile phone, street lights and heating the swimming pool and powering your computer will become a way of life. Just as the saying goes that sun never stops shining in California, a solar energy home will never lack the power required to run the house. China is another country which is fast using this solar technology for its future growth. Japan already is moving in the direction of saving its excess power and the government there is helping device methods to save money on fuel. The future of solar energy homes is spreading rapidly in the east. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is formulating a program to introduce solar energy to more than a million homes in the next few years.
India has long days and plenty of sunshine, especially in the Thar Desert region of Rajasthan and Gujarat. With abundant solar energy available, this zone is attracting attention from the Indian government for its research purposes. Solar energy is being used in India for heating water for both industrial and domestic purposes and for solar lighting too. Human beings may not be trustworthy but the sun is always kind and generous to mankind in general. Lets hope the future of solar energy powered homes all over the world is not very far away.