How Solar Power Is Harnessed
Without energy, life is impossible on the planet.
The physical law of conservation of energy suggests that energy can’t arise from anything and doesn’t disappear without a trace.
It can be obtained from natural resources, such as coal, natural gas or uranium, and turned into forms convenient for us, such as heat or light.
In the world around us, we can find various forms of energy storage, but the most important for a human is the energy that solar radiation provides.
Solar energy belongs to renewable energy sources, that are restored without human intervention, in a natural way.
This is one of the environmentally friendly energy sources, which doesn’t pollute the environment.
The possibilities of using solar energy are almost unlimited and scientists all over the world are working on developing systems that expand the possibilities of using solar energy.
One square meter of the sun emits 62 900 kW of energy.
This is roughly equivalent to the work capacity of 1 million electric lamps.
This figure is impressive – the Sun gives the Earth every second 80 thousand billion kW, that is, several times more than all the power plants in the world.
Modern science is faced with the task of learning how to fully and effectively use the energy of the Sun, as the most secure.
Scientists believe that the widespread use of solar energy is the future of mankind.
The world reserves of open deposits of coal and gas, at such rates of their use as today, should be exhausted in the next 100 years.
But at the same time, our descendants would be deprived of these energy sources, and the products of their combustion would have caused enormous damage to the environment.
Atomic energy has enormous potential.
However, the Chernobyl accident in April 1986 showed the serious consequences of using nuclear energy.
The public around the world has recognized that the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes is economically justified, but the strictest safety measures should be observed when using it.
Therefore, the cleanest, safest source of energy is the Sun!
Solar energy can be converted into useful energy through the use of active and passive solar energy systems.
Passive Solar Systems
The most primitive way to passively use solar energy is a dark-colored water tank. Dark color, accumulating solar energy, turns it in to heat – the water is heated.
However, there are more progressive methods of passive use of solar energy.
Construction technologies have been developed that, when designing buildings, taking into account climatic conditions, selecting building materials, use solar energy to the maximum for heating or cooling and lighting buildings.
Thus, in 100 AD, Pliny the Younger decided to build a small house somewhere in Italy.
In one of the rooms, the windows were made of mica.
It turned out that this room was warmer than the others and less wood was needed for its heating.
In this case, the mica appeared as an insulator, which retains heat.
Modern building structures take into account the geographical location of buildings.
Thus, a large number of windows facing the south side provide for the northern regions in order to receive more sunlight and heat and limit the number of windows on the east and west sides in order to limit the flow of sunlight in the summer.
In such buildings, the orientation of the windows and the location, heat load and insulation – a single design system in the design.
Such buildings are environmentally friendly, energy-independent and comfortable.
There is a lot of natural light in the rooms, more complete connection with nature is felt, moreover, electricity is significantly saved.
Heat in such buildings is preserved thanks to selected insulating materials for walls, ceilings, and floors.
Such first “solar” buildings gained immense popularity in America after the Second World War.
Subsequently, due to the decline in oil prices, interest in the design of such buildings has faded somewhat.
However, now, due to the global environmental crisis, there is growing attention to environmental projects with renewable energy systems.
Active Solar Systems
The basis of active systems using solar energy is solar collectors.
Solar collectors can be used in all processes in the industry, agriculture, household needs, where heat is used.
Where is solar energy used?
Using solar energy is increasing annually.
Today, various settings are already being used for heating private houses.
Thanks to solar panels, small villages and towns are supplied with energy.
Today, we can name several industries using solar energy:
– Aerospace industry;
– Agriculture. Heating and electricity supply of warm houses, sheds, and other outbuildings;
– The use of solar energy at home (heating and electrification of buildings);
– The power supply of medical and school institutions;
– The use of solar energy to illuminate cities;
– Electricity supply of small settlements.
How does a human use solar energy?
As we wrote earlier, it is possible to distinguish two groups of systems that are used by man to convert the sun’s energy into heat and electricity.
These are passive and active solar systems.
The use of active systems is widespread much wider than passive ones. Below are some of them.
These devices use the sun’s radiation to convert it to heat.
The following main types of reservoirs can be distinguished:
They are the most common.
They are used for both heating and hot water.
The collector consists of an element that absorbs solar energy, a coating (glass with reduced metal content), a pipeline and a thermally insulating layer.
The clear coating protects the housing from adverse climatic conditions.
The collector captures heat, converting it into heat energy.
Such collectors can be installed in the roof or placed on the roof of the building, and you can arrange them separately.
This will give the site a modern look.
Vacuum collectors can be used all year round.
The main element of the collectors is vacuum tubes.
Each of them consists of two glass pipes.
The pipes are made of borosilicate glass, and the inner one is coated with a special coating that provides heat absorption with minimal reflection.
Air is exhausted from the space between the tubes.
A barium gas absorber is used to maintain the vacuum.
In good condition, the vacuum tube has a silver color.
If it looks white, it means that the vacuum has disappeared and the tube needs to be replaced.
The vacuum collector consists of a complex of vacuum tubes (10-30) and carries out the transfer of heat to the storage tank through an antifreeze liquid (coolant).
The efficiency of vacuum collectors is high:
- in cloudy weather, because vacuum tubes can absorb the energy of infrared rays that pass through the clouds
- can work at sub-zero temperatures.
The use of such devices is air heating and drainage installations.
The main element of the collector is a heat-insulated plate made of any material that conducts heat well.
The plate is painted in a dark color.
The sun’s rays pass through a transparent surface, heat the plate, and then transfer heat to the room with a stream of air.
The air passes through natural convection or with a fan, which improves heat transfer.
However, the disadvantage of this system is that it requires additional expenses for fan operation.
These collectors operate during daylight hours, so they cannot replace the main source of heating.
However, if the collector is installed in the main source of heating or ventilation, its efficiency immeasurably increases.
Solar air collectors can also be used for the desalination of seawater, which reduces its cost price to 40 cents per cubic meter.
In most cases, all these installations are installed on the roofs or facades of buildings.
Sometimes they are allocated at the platform where there is maximum sunlight.
These devices use the sun’s radiation to convert it into electrical energy.
Photovoltaic cells are used for this.
When light hits them, they generate electrical energy.
One such photocell has a small power.
Therefore, they are connected in series in the battery.
Often, craftsmen are engaged in the creation of such solar cells with their own hands.
Solar panels are easy to use, durable and use a free source of energy.
However, they don’t work at night, have low efficiency and a quite high cost.
Often such devices can be found on the roofs and facades of private houses in the south of Europe, the USA, in Israel and other regions with high solar insolation.
They are in addition to the main system of energy supply at home and allow you to save money on electricity.
In those regions of the world with the high solar insolation, not just single solar stations, but real power plants of the industrial scale are done.
They produce electricity, the volume of which is enough to provide energy to small towns.
Many southern countries already have a large percentage of the use of solar energy in their national energy systems.
Solar power plants generate electricity or hot water. So, they work like batteries and collectors.
For example, the authorities of California (USA) are going to increase the share of electricity production from solar power plants in the state’s power system to 30% by 2021.
Solar-powered Electric Vehicles
Gradually, there is an introduction of solar cells in road transport.
Samples that work entirely from solar panels, still exist only in the form of concept cars.
Using them on a massive scale is currently not possible.
Heliopanels are installed on the surface of the car’s body and charge the batteries.
Those, in turn, provide power to the electric motor.
The use of batteries in production models is limited by the fact that they are used to power the individual units of the car.
Below are examples of the use of solar energy. All of these items exist in the performance, working from solar cells:
- Kids toys;
- Solar-powered power bank for charging various gadgets
- All sorts of lamps;
- Hiking solar panels;
- There is even a solar-powered plane.
The industry continues to evolve.
The Newest Solution Energy Applications
The main source of global alternative energy is the sun.
Its amount exceeds the total reserves that can be obtained using all other sources: oil, coal, gas, peat and other energy resources.
Solar energy is used in a variety of industries, including construction, space, aviation, etc.
For a long time, there are solar buildings, bridges, trains, airplanes.
A good example is the Swiss project Solar Impulse 2, the world’s first manned solar-powered aircraft.
It traveled from Abu Dhabi on a world tour designed to demonstrate the possibilities of alternative energy.
In early July, a solar-powered aircraft broke the record for world aviation in terms of the duration of a non-stop flight without refueling.
Another great example of successful solar energy use is the Blackfriars Bridge in London.
It is expected that the panels will generate up to 900 thousand kilowatt-hours annually.
Due to this, it is planned to provide 50% of the annual station’s need for electricity, as well as to reduce CO2 emissions by 563 tons per year.
In 2017, the UAE opened the first hotel in the world of the InterContinental Hotels Group, which is fully provided with electricity from solar panels.
The hotel is as environmentally friendly as possible: in addition to using the energy of the sun, all wastewater and waste are completely recycled.
An ardent supporter of alternative energy is Elon Musk, head of SpaceX and Tesla Motors.
In the field of “green” technology, he presented the Tesla Energy battery system – Tesla Powerwall.
More recently, floating solar power stations appeared in Japan, with a total capacity of 3,300 megawatt-hours of energy per year.
Together, they will be able to provide electricity to 920 homes.
As it turned out, you can use solar energy in space. Recently, Mitsubishi transmitted 10 kilowatts of microwave energy to a distance of 500 meters by air.
Cosmic energy, converted into electricity, was used to power LED lights on Earth.
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The industry continues to evolve.