Solar Power: An Alternative Energy Source
Since first discovered in the 1860s, the concept of storing energy from the sun to use as a source of power has been studied and pursued by many programs. Either using solar collectors or photovoltaic cells, the methods of using solar power are becoming more efficient and cost-effective. Solar technology is currently being used by homes and businesses, but is still too expensive and risky for many residents. Researchers are still making advances to solar technology for it to be a feasible energy source in the future.
Solar energy was first started in the 1860s when Auguste Mouchout and William Adams found a way for storing solar radiation into tanks of water. Since then, there have been improvements to the processing of solar energy, which has been split into two categories: agricultural based and electricity based. The agricultural method, otherwise known as thermal solar energy, uses the sunlight to heat liquid and power steam engines. Solar collectors can be used on houses or business buildings to store the energy. Different types of solar collectors are flat-plate collectors, evacuated tube collectors and integral collector storage systems (US Department of Energy, 2007, para. 2). The electrochemical process is more complicated and requires photovoltaic (PV) cells to capture the solar energy and convert it into electricity. PV cells have many uses, including powering batteries or mechanical devices by absorbing the photons and creating a voltage. (Simon, 2007, p. 88)
Silicon in the PV conductors absorbs photons, but sometimes impurities are added to create a charge. Phosphorous is added to create negatively charged silicon and boron is added to create positively charged silicon in a process called doping. This way the silicon cell will have differently charged ends, like a battery. Because silicon cells are only semi-conductive, it is harder to generate an electrical current, and therefore require collective grids to transfer electrons through a series of thin wires. Although collective grids are the
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most efficient way of solving conductive issues, it is expensive to produce. Instead, photolithography is used to attach the metal grid to the cell. After the development of PV cells in the 1940s, little progress was made for the next few years because of its expensive cost. However, it was used in the space industry in the 1950s and 60s. Now, with nanotechnology and other improvements, there is possibility for cheaper and more efficient production. Finally, there are uses of solar furnaces to collect solar energy in a small area by reflecting the heat using mirrors. An example of this is a solar furnace in Odellio, France that has the ability to heat up to 33,000 degrees Celsius (Darvill, 2007, para. 11).
Experiments with Solar Power Plants:
The Mojave Desert is an ideal place for solar power plants since it is so insolated and has more sunlight than most areas of the United...