Solar Energy And Solar Power Plants


Facts About
The earth receives more than enough energy from the sun in an hour to supply the world’s energy requirement for the whole year.

Unfortunately, only a tiny portion of it is harnessed and the world still relies on power plants that burn fossil fuels. The good thing, though, is that there is a constant increase in demand for solar energy; and over the years of continuous development, solar panels are much cheaper today.

During peak hours, the maximum power density that the sun can give is about 1kW per square meter. In other words, one square meter of solar panel can produce as much as 100 GWh (gigawatt hours) of electricity in one year. That is enough to power 50,000 houses.

If a solar power plant is build on 1% of the total land area of the Sahara desert, it will satisfy the world’s energy requirement.

The efficiency of solar panels depends on several factors such as pollution, clouds, temperature and atmospheric humidity.

Solar power plants are very similar to other conventional power plants – with one significant difference: The majority of power plants draw their power from fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas.

When power plants burn fossil fuels, they produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Solar power plants or solar thermal power plants (or Concentrating Solar Power plants) utilize the power of the sun’s rays to generate electricity.

The process could not be any simpler. The solar panels receive heat from the sun, which will be reflected to the receiver. The receiver converts into steam the concentrated solar energy. The steam is stored on tanks which will be used to turn the turbines and generate electricity.

The whole process does not involve any burning of any fossil fuels. Thus, solar power plants do not contribute to global warming.

The increase in the use of solar energy will bring down the demand for oil.

Today, there are more than 10,000 households with solar energy systems and the number is constantly increasing. If the demand for solar energy as well as other forms of alternative energy, the demand for oil will drop and the cost fuel will likely to follow.

Residential solar energy system can turn your electric meter backwards. Given that you are connected on a power-grid, the excess energy that your solar energy system produces will go to the electric lines to be used by other homes. As a result, any excess energy you give will be reflected on your bills. Your electric supplier will even pay for the electricity you supplied.

Residential solar energy system can save you money.

While the initial cash out for installing solar energy system at home is big, the device will pay for itself in the long run. Not only you will save money on solar energy system, you also help the environment by not contributing to carbon emissions.

Solar energy systems are reliable and can last for a very long time.

PV cells are last from 25 to 40 years. Many manufacturers of solar panels give 25 years product warranty. This is the assurance that solar panels are very dependable.

In addition, solar panels require little or no maintenance and the can be installed on most places where there is sunlight throughout the year.

Pros and Cons Of Residential Solar Energy System


Harnessing the power of the sun’s ray to create energy to power our house is very appealing. But the question is, “Is everything about solar energy good?”

Looking at the current price of fossil fuel-based electricity, it is quite impractical to convert into solar energy system. However, with the growing concern on the state of the earth, there is really a need to find other means of energy aside from what power plants are using right now. Where do you place yourself?

Whether you are an advocate of clean energy or simply care about where your finances go, looking at the pros and cons of residential solar energy system will help you decide on whether to convert or not.

Pros

Solar energy is free. Did you know that the earth absorbs 174 pettawatts of solar radiation? This means that we have more than enough source of free energy to power every house in the world. Unfortunately, most of our energy is still drawn from oil, gas and coal. But in recent years, there is a steady increase of demand for alternative and renewable energy like solar power. It is estimated that the demand for alternative sources of energy will increase by 53% between 1999 and 2020.

Solar energy is clean, renewable and sustainable. Because the energy created from the sun’s rays does not produce byproducts like those from fossil fuel power plants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury or carbon dioxide), it does not contribute to pollution. Accordingly, the increase in the use of solar energy and other alternative forms of energy will decrease the demand for greenhouse gases-producing power plants.

The price of photovoltaic cells is steadily decreasing. The demand for solar panels has risen by 57% in the United States in 2007 and is steadily increasing on a monthly basis. The increase in demand results to the improvement of solar technology as a whole. The prices of photovoltaic cells have declined on the average of 4% every year over the past 15 years.

Solar panels can be installed on most rooftops, eliminating the problem of finding a suitable place for installation. Solar panels require little or no maintenance. The original photovoltaic cells technology is used for most satellites orbiting our earth today which are not maintained at all. Many solar panel manufacturers give 25 to 40 years warranty on their products.

Because most areas of the country receive a substantial amount of sunlight throughout the year, solar panels can be installed anywhere.

Many states in the country give tax credits and rebates to households who want to install solar energy system. Check with your state government the cost of these incentives.

Cons

While the prices of PV cells are in constant decline, the cost of installation is substantially high compared to the current electric cost. But the good thing is, after your initial cash out, you don’t have to pay every month on electric bills for the rest of your life.

On areas cities and areas with heavy pollution problem, solar energy may not work as fine. Weather can also affect the efficiency of solar energy. If it is raining, overcast weather or if there is a hurricane, the solar panels’ efficiency is decreased.

You are only producing energy during day time.

These are general pros and cons you might encounter when considering the conversion to solar energy system. It would be best if your decision is based on location, cost, budget, rebates, tax credits and practicality.

Solar Energy – This Commodity is Not for Sale


If anything good came out during the recent increases of the fuel oil prices, it is that once again, there is a merry interest in alternative sources of energy. Even when pump prices has been decreasing like nothing we have seen before, the uproar created and the pain it did to business will have a good chance of sticking. The desire for alternative sources of energy is on the forefront and may it stay there for good – as it should.

Extracting oil from crops is a good idea; the downside is that food supplies could be dramatically reduced. Wind power is another excellent thing except for the many buts that wind power generation have.

If costs is the main objection to solar power generation that should be the least of worries.

The installation of solar panels is until today, considered a specialized job. Like any commodity in the market, when the demand is high but the supply is limited, the cost increase. As more and more homes clamor for alternative sources of energy, better technology and more labor is drawn to the job that market forces could take place and result into much lowered prices. This though is still in the future.

Today the reality is the instability and the unpredictability of pump prices. But even if it does provide stable and predictable price movement, solar energy is free and it is inexhaustible.

While the technology of tapping out this resource is not, homes that are solar powered are getting back dividends in terms of higher appraisal for their homes, confidence in not being surprised by power shortage and outage, not being dependent on the fluctuation in power prices and the definite advantage of having provided a better environment solution.

Today, the typical ways at tapping this resource usually are:

•Through a Heliostat – this are focusing collectors composed of mirrors that are aimed at the sun to collect the energy. The temperature that heliostats could provide reaches more that 4,000 degrees centigrade. This high temperature is sufficient for use even for furnaces.

•Through Flat Plate Collectors – employ a system of pipes. The water inside the pipes becomes heated and is ideal for heating purposes like schools, homes swimming pools, offices etc.

•Through Solar Distillation – instead of heat, this provides water. The mechanics is similar to the processes of plate collectors except that this is generally used to steam salt water. To do this, tanks and ducts are usually installed in surfaces that receive a good sun. Through the heat, the salt water turns into steam and when the steam condenses, the water is collected for regular use.

•Through photovoltaic Cells – These are the most common type of collecting solar energy characterized by solar panels installed in rooftops and other flat surfaces that there is a good sun, converting the power collected into electricity.

Unlike any products, whether refined or manufactured, the processing of solar energy do not need additional costs of energy to power it up. It is energy generating by itself. Except maybe for regular inspection and replacement of parts (when it employs a mechanical device), the tapping of solar energy is virtually maintenance free. Once installed, it could be used for as long as needed for the amount of energy, (depending on the capacity of the unit), which the owner requires.

Solar Energy – It is Popular. So Why is it Not Yet Widely Used?


The fact is, the 350,000,000 terawatts of power available from the sun is so huge that an exposure to a full sun in only 15 minutes will be enough to generate the world’s energy requirement

Compare that with energy that is generated by nuclear and fossil fuel. Presently, the available data for fossil and nuclear fuel is 10,800,000 terawatts which we all know to be non renewable.

To produce electricity, utility companies burn fossil fuels that translate to 1.3 pounds of carbon dioxide to produce 1kw of electrical power. This unwanted CO2 emissions are dumped into the atmosphere. This then translates into each typical home being accountable yearly for 22,000 pounds of CO2 emissions.

The harnessing of the sun’s rays is clean and safe. It produces no emissions and it is practical and may in the years ahead, prove very economical. In the United States, only 0.1% of power that is generated is solar energy driven. So what are the obstacles?

According to the Wall Street Journal (in an article that was released in its August 2008 issue), there are groups, backed by political groups that are lobbying against the putting up of transmission lines for solar power. The construction of distribution lines for solar energy is also being blocked by environmental activists that restrict the delivering of solar energy to those who want it in their homes.

Another obstacle is that the power grid in the United States which was designed more than 100 years ago is now so congested in many regions. To deliver the solar power to consumers, scientists and engineers will have to come out with another cost efficient plan to transfer huge amounts of energy from one location to another.

Solar panels are considered expensive. Although a home increases its value by folds when solar powered, the costs still could be prohibitive to most that unless the non silicon flexible solar panels that are now being developed are released for market consumption, powering homes through solar energy could still be very limited.

Other forms of rewards to avoid fossil fuel use should still be effectively placed. The 30% tax cut to projected cost previously awarded will be more attractive if other federal credits are included to encourage further investments.

The global warming issue that has been brought to the papers is a recurrent subject of talk shows and remains to be a good news item. Also, the too unstable pump prices, should and for most part, already be a good incentive to use this alternative source of energy.

However, effective solar energy transmission to homes will remain to be very hard unless these obstacles are breached. Assuming that these obstacles are solved today, it will still take some 10 years to convert 20% of American homes into solar energy users. Meanwhile, solar panels on individual homes remain to be the most viable alternative.

The good part to solar energy quest is that technology is advancing very rapidly. Nano technology for solar power is being developed and may be available in five years time. Other breakthroughs in cell designs are also being developed that could, in the next few years, be a cost-effective way of generating energy without having to rely anymore on fossil and nuclear power.

Solar Energy – New Discoveries


The day may not be far off when the use of solar energy becomes a norm. There is now a deep conviction among experts that given a few years time, solar power will be in high demand that the cost will go down, inexpensive enough to undercut the prices of oil-generated electricity.

Previous predictions that it will still happen in a decade may no longer be true. The anger generated by the recent prices in oil and its vulnerability to market forces and other events may have already been enough to polarized people, governments and scientific communities into seriously considering a reliable alternative energy source.

You can not get a source more reliable than the sun. Even today homes that uses its power does not only benefit from the silent, energy generating, inexhaustible power of the sun, it also spikes up the prices of their homes. Those that have solar powered homes are even reimbursed for the surplus power that they supply to the power grid.

Presently, heliostats, photovoltaic cells and plate collectors are being used to collect the energy by focusing these panels towards the sun or constructing and installing the panel’s on spots where the sun shines most. Development in technology as we all know often has a snowball effect. It never stops rediscovering and reinventing that the speed of development could often be surprisingly fast.

Today, a polymer foil, thin as a sheet of paper and lighter by 200 times when compared to the regular glass collecting plates, are being developed. Chances are, these new inventions and discoveries could very well have a great potential for mass production. Previously, the glass-based materials used for heat collection need expensive substrates and require additional support for mounting due to its weight. The polymer foil, being very light could now be attached even to the walls of a structure.

So confident are scientists in the development of this technology that while the polymer foil is being developed, a plastic solar cell, based on nano technology is gaining breakthroughs. This plastic material can collect the power of the sun even on a cloudy day through harnessing the infrared rays is believed to be five times more efficient than the current technology.

While plastic materials for harnessing the power of the sun are not new, it is only recently that this plastic composite could harvest the infrared portion. Previously, only the visible rays are generated, the infrared part, which is half of the power of the sun, is invisible.

Currently, the best plastic solar cells could only harness 6% of the suns energy, with further study and development, this new plastic solar cells are expected to harness 30% of the suns solar power.

Scientists and researchers alike agree that ultimately, solar farms will be harnessing all our energy requirements and costs of power will drop. Today the price of solar powered energy is about 3 to 4 times per kilowatt hour compared with conventional electricity. That could change dramatically though the development of the existing technology and recent discoveries.

The roller pressed flexible plastic materials and the polymer foil are only two of the best hopes in arriving at a cleaner, greener and safer environment that could ultimately free the planet from its dependency on the depleting supply of oil.