E Block - Solar

Solar Energy


By: Asha Hopkins & Jonathan Sanchez

Background:



The first use of solar energy can be traced back all the way to 7th century B.C when magnifying glasses could be used to burn ants(www1.eere.energy.gov). In 1200s A.D The Anasazi people built their homes in cliff’s designed to the winter sun. (www.eere.energy.gov) The first solar official collector was built in 1767 by scientist Horace de Saussure. With glass and the power of the sun he found a way to heat his food while on a long journey to Africa (solarcooking.org). Charles Fritts took it a step further in 1883 by making solar cells out of selenium wafers. Solar energy finally reached the consumer population in 1891 when , “Clarence Kemp patented the first commercial solar water heater.” (www.eere.energy.gov). These advancements in solar technology were only the was only the beginning.

The Photovoltaic technology we know now was not invented until 1954. Photovoltaic is described as ”a technology which a device or solar panel uses to produce electricity.”(clean-energy-ideas.com) Three American scientist: Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson, created the first silicon photovoltaic. They invented it so it was able, “to power everyday electrical equipment.(//www.eere.energy.go//v) Since the early 1970s scientist have been exploring the idea of collecting solar energy from space. The National Space Society explains, “Space Solar Power gathers energy from sunlight in space and transmits it wirelessly to Earth” (nss.org). Thanks to these developments solar energy can be implemented as an alternative energy source to power our homes and business.

Benefits of Solar Energy:

The suns energy is truly an unlimited resource. For as long as the sun shines we can depend on it to provide energy. Solar energy also gives off no greenhouse gasses like oil and coal (exploringgreentechnology.com). It also protects forests because it does not need to be mined like fossil fuels. Therefore as long as ecosystems are not cleared to make way for more solar panels, they can go on unharmed by solar energy systems (exploringgreentechnology.com.) It can also beneficial to people in rural areas because it does not require national power grid (exploringgreentechnology.com). It is a self reliant system that requires very little maintenance which is an advantage for everybody(exploringgreentechnology.com).

There are also economic benefits to solar energy. Fossil fuels are running out therefore energy bills are continuing to grow higher and higher. Yet these higher bills can be fought with alternative energy. Solarworld, a solar panel retailer, states that, “many homeowners experience at least a 50% decrease, up to the complete elimination of their electrical expenses”(solarworld-usa.com) So by getting rid of their reliance on fossil fuels, families can avoid the price hike. These economic benefits can also be seen on the global spectrum. If we as a nation reduce our reliance on fossil energy then we can reduce our fossil fuel reliance on other countries(solarworld-usa.com). This can be beneficial because it will save us money and prevent rocky foreign relations.Another way solar energy is beneficial to America is job creation. According to exploringgreentechnology.com ,”Europe’s solar industry has created 100,000 jobs so far”( exploringgreentechnology.com) So if we began working with solar energy on a wide scale basis with our very diverse climate range we may be able to provide jobs for millions. The benefits for solar energy have to potential to change our whole country.

Draw Backs of Solar Energy:


Although Solar energy is a greener energy alternative for natural gas and coal, it is not the most reliable energy source. One way is is there is no 100% effective way to store solar energy(clean-energy-ideas.com). Solar panels are useless if there is a cloudy sky. Since there is no way to store this energy for a rainy day, back up energy usually provided by natural gas must be used. This also harms its usefulness depending on specific areas. So while solar panels may be a good idea of the most part in Albuquerque, New Mexico, They’d be a terrible idea in Seattle, Washington. Due to this, big businesses might not to rely too heavily on solar energy because the cost of the up-keeping of both solar and fossil fuels could be expensive. This also brings to question whether or not this will be overall economically probable. According to aznano.com, “the world will need 30 terawatts (TW) of energy resources in place by the year 2050 to maintain economic growth and accommodate the increasing energy requirements of rapidly expanding economies such as China and India.” (azonano.com). One terawatt is the equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000 watts of energy (www.terawatt.com). the cost for such energy is almost too great to imagine. There is lso the issue of space. Solar panel systems can be large and may not be useful in areas where there is little space or obstructing factors (clean-energy-ideas.com). An example where solar panels might not work well could be a small home or shop in the Manhattan district of New York City, New York.

Current Technology and use in NM:
The use of a system called a parabolic trough has been found to be the most cost effective and efficient way of harnessing solar energy. Because of this New Mexico has plans to use parabolic troughs to produce211,000 and 375,000 megawatt-hours per year starting in 2012(www.tristategt.org). Sandia National Laboratories has been developing and testing ways to harness solar power and in 2008 broke the record of solar-to-grid conversion efficiency; creating a system with 31.25 percent net efficiency (www.sciencedaily.com).


Solar Energy.jpg

Current Sciences:
There currently two forms of solar energy that are used to create electricity. These are through
the use of concentrated solar power to create heat and by use of photovoltaic cells. Many power plants employ the use of concentrated solar power. A concentrated solar power system works through the use of many mirrors that reflect a large area of sunlight and concentrate it into a relatively small area. The reflected solar energy is then converted to heat energy which drives a heat engine that is then used to generate electricity. There are four forms of concentrating solar energy that are commonly used. These are parabolic troughs, dish Stirlings, concentrating Fresnel reflectors, and solar power towers. Currently the most efficient solar concentrator only yields about 1/3 the theoretical maximum solar-thermal-trough.pngconcentration.
Diagram of converting light gathered by a solar trough
into electricity
Photovoltaic systems are used to convert sunlight directly to electricity rather than converting it to heat to power a generator. Photovoltaic systems are powered by use of solar cells. Solar cells contain semi-conductor materials. When these cells are hit by sunlight electrons are separated from their atoms, this flow of electrons generates electricity. The electricity is then gathered at a single point and then sent to where it will be used or stored.
solar-light-cell example.gif


Works Cited:


  • Not Specified. "Www1.eere.energy.gov - U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Home Page." Webstatsdomain.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012
  • Not Specified. "Advantages of Solar Energy." Advantages of Solar Energy. Solarworld, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
  • Not Specified. "Solar Cell Development and Using Nanotechnology in Next Generation, Cheap, Highly Efficient Solar Cells." Solar Cell Development and Using Nanotechnology in Next Generation, Cheap, Highly Efficient Solar Cells. Pennsylvania State University Materials Research Institute, 22 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
  • Not Specified. "Disadvantages Of Solar Energy." Disadvantages Of Solar Energy. Clean Energy Ideas, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
  • Not Specified. "Horace De Saussure and His Hot Boxes of the 1700's." Horace De Saussure and His Hot Boxes of the 1700's. Solar Cookers World Network, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
  • Whitburn, Greg. "13 Fundamental Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy." Exploring Green Technology. Exploring Green Technolgy, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012
  • "Solar Power Energy Information, Solar Power Energy Facts - National Geographic." Environment Facts, Environment Science, Global Warming, Natural Disasters, Ecosystems, Green Living - National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/solar-power-profile/>.
  • "Concentrated solar power - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrated_solar_power>."Photovoltaics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaics>.
  • "NM-solar-project-RFP." Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://www.tristategt.org/NewsCenter/NewsItems/NM-solar-project-RFP.cfm>.
  • "Solar Power: New World Record For Solar-to-grid Conversion Efficiency Set." Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080213172955.htm>.