Sustainable power sources need to be able to produce power without depleting the earth’s natural resources. The source of the power needs to be readily available, renewable and must not compromise the ability of future generations to generate their own power. Solar power uses the heat of the sun to produce energy in a sustainable, clean and eco-friendly manner.
The sun can be used to produce power in a number of different ways, several of which are available to the individual householder. This is where solar energy differs from other forms of sustainable power, such as hydro and wind power, which are really only viable on a large scale. The power of the sun is free, making this form of alternative green energy cost-effective once a system is established.
The History of Solar Power
Solar power has been in use since the 1800s when it was used to operate steam-driven machines for manufacture. In 1839, Alexandre Becquerel discovered how to generate electricity using the photo-voltaic effect but it wasn’t until 1941 that the solar cell was invented to make use of the discovery.
There has been on-going research into generating electricity from the sun which has increased the reliability and efficiency of the technology. Mass production of solar cells, especially in overseas countries, has made solar panels more affordable than in the past.
Different Types of Solar Power
Solar Hot Water
This method of solar power is the easiest and cheapest system to set up for an individual household. It allows you to heat water for showers, clothes washing and kitchen use and can save a considerable amount of money on power bills. The thermal energy of the sun is harnessed to heat water running through pipes that are exposed to the sun’s rays.
Photo-voltaic Solar Cells
Panels of these photo-voltaic cells are fixed to the roof, facing in the direction that receives the most direct sunlight through a typical day. The power generated by these cells is a direct current and needs to be converted to an alternating current for household use. An inverter is fitted for this purpose to allow the electricity to be available for immediate use. Alternatively, the energy can be stored in batteries for later use. This system has been very expensive to install in the past but subsidies and mass production have made it more affordable to the individual householder.
Concentrated Solar Power
This system uses mirrors which concentrate the heat of the sun to heat a special fluid that will then operate a generator. This type of system is more suited to community, rather than individual, use.
Solar Space Heating
Heat from the sun is used to heat internal areas.
Commercial applications use the sun in the drying process of grain, fruit and wood chip.
It is possible to set up an effective but inexpensive solar oven for cooking food.
Solar power is a clean, green method of generating electricity and has applications for the home, farm and industry. It uses a renewable resource and produces no waste products or toxic chemicals. The equipment used to generate power has no moving parts, meaning there is minimal maintenance and an extended life-span. The solar panels are relatively easy and inexpensive to install. This alternative energy source is especially suited to hot, sunny places that get the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the year.
In many countries, it is possible to sell the power you generate with your solar panels. The electricity goes into the grid for general consumption. Many people take advantage of this system to further decrease their energy bills. This system makes green energy available to people who cannot generate their own. You can elect to use a certain percentage of green power in some areas, allowing you to contribute to the health of the environment.
So, what do you think about solar power? Is it a solution we should invest in?