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Solar Energy Essay

1691 words - 7 pages

Solar Energy

~Some history, types, and facts~

In this modern fast paced world that we live in, there are many issues that are looked over, energy is one of these. As a world, we are dependant on dwindling fossil fuel supplies and take for granted electricity, oil, and gas. There are four completely renewable sources of energy around us that should be used and developed, they are: wind, growing plants, flowing water, and the sun. These sources of energy are the ones we should be tapping, because they are reliable and renewable. Harnessing the suns energy is the most certain and ultimate energy source. Looking at a brief history and some facts about solar energy, a glimpse of the future can be seen, a future not dependant on fossil fuels.

Using the sun for its heat and energy is not a new idea. It has been around for thousands of years. The first record of sun being utilized for energy and heat dates back to 400 BC. The Greeks designed their buildings and oriented their houses to utilize the sun during the winter and obscuring its hot rays during the summer. The Romans then continued on with harnessing the suns energy by developing window glass that allows the sunlight to come in, but traps solar heat. The Romans even put the sun in their legal system as to make sure that every house had so much access to the sun.

The first solar water heaters came into play in the 18th century. A French-Swiss scientist in Maryland did an experiment to see how much heat window glass would actually trap. By building a box and putting different glass tops on it, he learned he could reach the boiling point inside the box. Another person developed this idea and decided to put tanks of water into them, and sure enough that was the first development of the solar water heaters. To improve on the tank water heater, William J. Bailey decided to separate the water heating system and the water storage system because at night the water in the tank would cool down.

The greatest energy that can be produced by the sun is electricity. Photovoltaics, or solar cells, capture the sun and convert it into electricity. Solar cells were discovered by the Europeans back in the 1870’s when they used selenium to develop the telegraph. They found that when light hits selenium it would produce and electrical current. Soon enough there were many scientists and engineers working on photovoltaic systems. Silicon and Selenium proved to be the two best elements to conduct electricity when light hits them. Photovoltaic systems (PV cell) work by converting the suns light into electricity. A semi conducting material absorbs the sunlight, that energy knocks electrons loose from their atoms, this allows the electrons to flow through the material to produce electricity. The further development of solar cells can be attributed to the satellite industry. Solar cells were expensive and there was no use for them until satellites came. Because it is...

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