Everywhere you turn, whether in advertisement or just in general discussion, the social catch phrase now seems to be “go green”. Whether its energy conservation or choosing a natural and organic lifestyle, the word green has taken on new meaning over the past decade. It references a new way of thinking and a whole new level of personal and environmental awareness.
When it comes to the environment and energy alternatives, solar energy and the global advantages it creates, is at the forefront of the green energy movement. All other energy sources are limited or produce harmful by-products. Nuclear energy has radioactive waste and we all know the political and public hot potato that source is. Also, there’s no such thing as clean coal and we know that electrical power is another form of dirty energy that also is not in endless abundance.
Now consider solar power, the ultimate alternative energy source that will be available providing that our sun continues to rise. However, tapping into this ultimate source and converting it into useable energy for all societies is the challenge that lies ahead. As we all know great advancements have already been made in this field and will continue to move forward.
Every day the sun provides enough solar energy to power the globe for a year. Despite continued advancements in the collection and utilization of solar power, just one tenth of one percent is harnessed towards the global demand of energy. Now according to a recent National Geographic story, solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies could generate enough electricity equal to 40 times the world’s present electricity use. Photovoltaic cells, or solar panels, are a familiar site to most as they are commonly seen on roof tops, in calculators and of course used on NASA spacecraft. When sunlight heats these solar panels electrons are released from their atoms resulting in the generation of electricity as the electrons flow the solar cell.
Thinking beyond the backyard or other household appliances powered by solar energy, the solar thermal power plant is an amazing technology that can impact communities. These plants convert the sun’s energy into a useable heat source. This heat then boils water resulting in the release of steam to generate electricity through a turbine in a similar fashion to a nuclear power plant. This technology can benefit thousands of residents at a time serving entire communities with solar generated useable electricity.
Other solar power technologies being perfected including a method that utilizes mirrors to redirect sunlight onto an oil filled pipe. The heated oil then boils water for the generation of electricity. Mirrors are used in another technique in directing sun’s energy onto a collector which rests a receiver. A generator is then powered by molten salt that flows through the receiver.