Jun 5, 2013

Solar Energy Vs Solar Power

The terms solar power and solar energy are used interchangeably, however the terms have different definitions. Solar Energy is utilizing the radiant energy from the Sun. Solar Power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either by photovoltaics and concentrating solar thermal devices, or the utilization of thermoelectric converters, solar chimneys or solar ponds. (some of the latter are experimental) When we consider building design, solar energy (and shading) are considerations. In order to conserve heat that the Sun delivers, thermal mass is used.

Optimization of the light in buildings is called a 'Daylighting' technique. Solar water heaters are used in many applications including swimming pools and domestic hot water. Farmers use greenhouses to lengthen the growing seasons, as well as pumps that derive power from solar cells (photovoltaics) in order to move water for grazing animals. In order to harvest salt, as well as clean waste streams, evaporation ponds are used. In order to increase the supply of potable (drinking, cooking etc.) water, solar distillation and disinfection methods provide water for a great many people around the world. There are many simple uses for this renewable energy and the prospect for a great deal more.

Consider solar chimneys or solar towers, this technology is experimental, however if we lobby our elected officials we can get them to fund these options and they can be up and running in a very short time. These solar updraft towers (solar chimneys or towers) consist of large greenhouses that funnel into a central tower. Sunlight then shines on the greenhouse, and the inside air is heated and it expands. The expanding air flows into the central tower, where a turbine converts the air flow into electricity. This technology is not difficult to put into use, it will simply cost money. Sadly, it won't cost a lot of money but it is more than our elected officials have earmarked for renewable energy. The number of new jobs that pursuing this technology would create would offset the cost and put a lot of unemployed people back to work.

There are even ways of harnessing solar power from space. Space solar power systems would use a solar array in geosynchronous orbit to collect the sunlight and then it would beam this energy as microwaves to receivers set up on Earth for distribution. Once again this concept is still experimental, however it could deliver power close to 100% of the time. We simply have to pursue this concept and get it to a workable point.

The story is, now we have to get serious about the alternatives, as there will soon be no choice. We are destroying our environment, natural habitats are polluted to the point that some creatures are approaching extinction. Take a look at frogs, many species are already extinct and this is no small matter. We depend on these amphibians to eat insects from swamps that are dangerous to humans. Soon we will face threats from diseases right here in the U.S., like malaria that we had long forgotten. We have to embrace renewable, alternative energy now. Fossil fuels are destroying us, both financially and physically. Global warming, rampant pollution and the depletion of those fossil fuels will bring about our demise if we don't act now.


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