Renewable Energy: Solar Energy
What is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is a way to convert light energy into electricity by using a device or medium that harnesses solar power. There are 2 ways we can convert solar energy into electricity, we can either convert it passively or harvesting solar power without the use of any mechanical device or actively by using a mechanical device.
There are 3 types of energy that the we can get from the sun:
Solar light Energy. Photovoltaics is a way to convert solar energy into electricity by gathering photons or the small packets of energy inside the sun’s rays. We can use this kind of energy to gather the light of the sun and use it to power the appliances inside our homes.
Solar panels convert light energy to electricity by means of interconnected photovoltaic silicon(solar cells) arranged in a module or through an array.
For a solar panel to work, it is installed to where the sun has most adequate light in your area. A solar panel only generates 12 volt of DC, therefore, an inverter is needed to convert DC to AC. AC is an electric current equal to 110/100/220 volt (depends on country) and this kind of voltage is required to power up any appliances inside the home.
– Less maintenance because it gathers electricity passively.
– Free source of fuel for energy gathering.
– Endless supply of fuel.
– Long operational life as it does not have any mechanical device that may wear and tear due to repeated operations.
– Saves electricity bill.
– High initial cost. ROI will be achieved in about 1 to 5 years.
– Must be installed on places where 100% of the sun’s light is achieved. A cloudy location means a decrease in power output.
– Power can only gained during the day but we can install batteries so that we can still use solar energy even when the sun is not up.
Solar Thermal Energy. Harnessing solar energy but it is converted to heat energy. Examples of which is using the sun to warm a home’s indoor environment, heat water or a swimming pool.
A solar thermal system is a like a solar panel but it’s goal is to gather the sun’s heat. Instead of mirrors and silicon solar panels, it uses a black colored panels with a heat collector and instead of generating electricity, it is converted heat energy.
– Unlike solar panels, it does not require adequate solar light to gather solar energy.
– It is used passively meaning less maintenance compared to mechanical type of solar power systems.
– Endless supply of energy because the sun does not decrease nor deplete it’s energy rate.
– Saves fuel and/or electricity required to heat a water or keep your indoor environment warm.
– Will only function during the day when the sun is rising.
– Not recommended on shady or cloudy locations.
– The initial cost is high but there are other options like recycling that can decrease the total initial cost.
Concentrated Solar Power. Concentrated Solar Power uses lenses or reflective mirrors to focus light energy into a small area to generate a very high temperature that powers boils the water and powers the steam turbine thereby generating electricity.
Concentrated solar power systems are not similar to solar panels although it appears as if though it is using a solar panel but it is not a solar panel but a reflective panel all aimed at a tower thereby generating heat high enough to make steam turbines work.
Solar cooking is an example of concentrated solar power. It uses a reflective cooker that gathers the sun’s light and then aims it at a specific location to concentrate light therefore generate heat.
Concentrated Solar Power is also used to generate electricity. A dish or a parabolic trough may be used on homes but they all require a larger space and because concentrated solar power uses steam and a generator, but the downside is it might be too loud for neighbors.
– Limitless fuel source.
– Saves on electricity bill.
– Too loud and not neighbor-friendly
– Too bulky if used at home, requires larger space.
– Must be on constant sunlight to acquire 100% power.
– Has a mechanical device and uses water to generate electricity therefore requires more maintenance.
– The sun is not available at night.
Solar energy is free and renewable however its primary cost is high. But if you think carefully, the one time cost of solar panels for example is sufficient enough to save you at least 40% of your electricity consumption per month that will go on for years and years.
LEED, an internationally recognized green building system rates a building or a house that meets its standards for being environment friendly and conserves energy. With your green aims, plus using all the means necessary to save on electricity bills and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it’s a waste if you do not get your home or building be LEED certified. Who knows you might get a LEED Platinum rating for your efforts.
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