Can you just for a moment imagine our world without the sun? It would have been colder than you can imagine. Water would not be available. Life would not be possible. Every place would be covered by thick ice. We would not be able to have food. Plants would not photosynthesize. It would be a disaster.
Since the beginning of our existence, the sun has always provided our survival requirements—food, light, and warmth. With technological advancements over the years, things have changed. The sun now provides us with much more.
Solar energy brought a revolution into humankind’s life. Before, people used to live a simple life. With the availability of electricity, so many things changed. People started to work much faster and much better in terms of efficiency.
Evolution of Solar Energy
In this world, where almost all energy production sources are from non-renewable resources, folks are trying to find structured and price-effective methods to use renewable energy. One of the great inventions in renewable technology has to be the solar panel. It is made up of several solar cells that change light into electrical energy.
Although some individuals associate solar panels with new-age knowledge, experts have been using solar cells for almost 200 years. The advancement of solar panels has been a sluggish but a valuable undertaking.
The significant phase in solar panel technology originated after Alexandre Becquere. He experimented the photovoltaic effect in 1839. The photovoltaic effect creates an electrical current when exposed to light.
However, this discovery was not initiated until 1888. This was the year Aleksandr Stoletov built the solar cell. His entire innovation was based on the photoelectric effect. The effect triggers electrons to be discharged when energy from the sun is absorbed.
This technology was assumed costly. But later it was found to be cost operational in lieu of the space program. The leading satellite to practice solar cells as a source for its primary power was the Vanguard 1.
It was launched in the year 1958. These revolutionary cells, however, cost-effective for space survey, were not very adequate for global uses.
Vanguard 1 launch was initiated a year later when Hoffman Electronics came up with a solar cell that was 10% more efficient. This achievement set the stage for more operative uses.
In 1967, Solar cells were used for the first time in an operated spaceship—the Soyuz 1.
Even with the extra efficient cell produced by Hoffman Electronics, for many years, the only practical use of solar cells continued to be limited to space aircraft. In the year 1973, solar cells were fixed on Skylab. This was a U.S space station that circumnavigated the Earth up until 1979. The solar cells were so vital to the maneuver of Skylab.
Since then, extensive researches have been conducted throughout the world on how to benefit more on solar energy. Public knowledge has been on the rise. While solar energy technology has come a long way, two centuries ago, it still existed.
The underlying technology for solar energy production has not changed much. It is still similar to the one used from the inception. Basic same principles. It is the wish of thousands of individuals that solar panels will someday be the only source of power in use across the world.
Types of solar energies
There are two types of solar energy. There are Photovoltaic technology and concentrated solar power.
Photovoltaic is derived from the photovoltaic effect. The photovoltaic type of energy produces electricity from light. A French man named Edmond Becquerel was the one behind this invention. He invented this idea in the year 1839. But the first industrial use was in the year 1954.
Photovoltaic technology produces energy when electrons are displaced. For this to happen, light has to be present. The method comes into effect when light hits a photovoltaic cell. The cell then converts light into energy through the use of a semiconductor.
A semiconductor is usually silicon. An inverter produces an alternating current. This is after a photovoltaic panel consisting of several cells produces direct current. Solar panels with this type of energy can be used in large plants or small systems.
Concentrated solar power
Just like its name suggests, this type of solar power produces electricity by concentration. Rays from the sun are concentrated by the use of a collector to a high-temperature fluid. This fluid can be gas, molten salt, or oil, to mention a few. This fluid then heats a network of water. This, in turn, produces steam. This steam drives turbines. Mechanical energy is produced hence generating electricity.
This is made possible by the use of large power plants. Curved or flat large mirrors are installed in vast areas. This technology is best suited in countries where the sunlight is intense. The technology is Ideal for desert conditions.
Solar Energy advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some merits and demerits of solar energy usage.
1. Solar energy is renewable. This is chief among all benefits.
2. Reduces electricity bill. Your energy bill will drop drastically when you use solar energy.
3. Diverse applications. Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes.
4. Low maintenance cost. This is because it does not require a lot in terms of repair and maintenance. All you have to do is keep them clean.
5. Solar energy doesn’t produce green house gases like other sources of energy.
6. Solar energy is available every day even during cloudy days.
1. One of the worst disadvantages is that it is weather dependent. This would make it unreliable during adverse weather conditions.
2. Solar energy storage is very expensive.
3. The initial purchase and installation cost is relatively high.
4. It requires a lot of space. This means the more electricity you want to produce, the more space you will need.
As the world continues to leap towards clean and renewable energy sources, solar energy is the most suitable source of energy.