The Power of Solar Energy
In today’s world, the growth of energy demands is exploding. Many of the energy sources that supply society with power currently run on non-renewable resources such as oil and coal. These resources also pollute our environment. Other resources such as hydro and wind power are not as reliable as they fluctuate in availability due to environmental conditions. It is important to investigate alternative resources of energy as the current forms and output will not sustain the world at the current increase in societal demands. One viable and almost unlimited source of energy is the sun. Solar panels make use of the sun’s light hitting earth everyday and convert it to a usable form of energy and have the potential to fulfill the world’s energy needs.
So, what is Solar Energy and where can one find it?
Energy from the sun has great potential for future use as earth’s primary source for power. Solar Energy is radiant energy produced in the sun as a result of nuclear fusion. It is transmitted to the earth in portions of energy called photons, which interact with the earth's atmosphere and surface. The attractions of solar energy are many. In a monetary sense, solar energy costs nothing; it is free for the taking and will not run out for billions of years. It doesn’t pollute or otherwise damage the environment. It creates no dangerous waste products such as plutonium. The extremely positive side of solar energy makes it evident that it is a very good candidate to be earth’s future energy source. There are several ways in which solar energy can be converted to other forms of energy. Photosynthesis and Biomass play a large role in converting solar energy into other forms of energy. Solar energy can also be converted to electricity and be used for space heating. Because of its many uses, solar energy is a source worth considering.
The strength of the solar energy available at any point on the earth depends, in a complicated but predictable way, on the day of the year, the time of day, and the latitude of the collection point. Furthermore, the amount of solar energy that can be collected depends on the orientation of the collecting object.
Uses and Collection Methods
Solar energy can also be used to make electricity. There are several approaches to concentrating and collecting sufficient solar energy to run a heat engine/generator. One approach is the parabolic trough design, which concentrates the solar energy on a tube (receiver) running the length of the trough and located at its focal point. A heat transfer fluid circulating through the tube absorbs the heat from the concentrated solar radiation and conducts the heat at 600 degrees Fahrenheit through an insulated pipe to a heat exchanger (steam generator) to make the steam for the turbine. The heat transfer fluid, having given up its heat to make steam, is re-circulated to the solar trough. If necessary, natural gas may be used to hybridize...