In a sense solar energy is all about the future. Right now we have the capability to fulfil all of our energy needs from other sources, non-renewable sources like oil, natural gas and coal. But these won’t last forever, so when they run out, or become so scarce that there isn’t enough to go around anymore, we will either need to use a different sort of energy or else drastically change our way of life. Ideally of course we would be able to switch to a different sort of energy. Actually, that is a process which has already started with renewable energy, and solar energy in particular. In the future therefore, the future uses of solar energy will be just about everything that we currently use energy for at the moment, and more!
Solar Energy for Houses
We are already in a situation in which solar energy can be used to power everything in our houses. Whether that be the computer on which you are likely reading this blog posting, or the kettle you use to make a cup of tea, or the television in the living room. Anything that needs power in your home can get it from solar energy when you have solar panels installed on your roof.
At the moment though it is quite expensive to have solar cells installed, even though they are a good long term investment. As soon as you have the solar cells they start to save you money on your electricity bills, and on top of that, at the moment the government is offering a feed-in tariff which pays you for all of the energy which is produced by the solar panels and subsequently is fed back in to the national grid.
In terms of future uses of solar energy then, the only difference will have to be that solar panels become a good short term investment as well as being good in the long run. They have to become more affordable and efficient so that they become obtainable by the majority of people. These are two of the main goals of the research that is currently being done into solar energy around the world, how to make them cheaper and more efficient.
Mobile Solar Energy
Of course the energy we need for static locations is only one kind of the energy we need. We also need energy on the move, for example for transport and electrical devices which we carry with us. Presently solar energy can be used to power watches and calculators but little else. Future uses of solar energy however should include cars, trains and even planes, as well as mobile phones, laptops and any other electrical devices. This will be possible when solar cells are reduced in size and, again, made more affordable.
Research has already been done into nano sized solar cells which will be able to come in many forms, including a spray. This means that you will be able to literally coat devices in solar cells. Also, there is already an unmanned plane that is powered by solar energy, as well as prototype cars.
What this means is that we have much of the technology for the future uses of solar energy, all that is necessary now is for it to become cheap enough that it can become widespread.
The Sun is the ultimate source of all energy on the planet. Even the energy which we have to move, which comes from the food we eat, which comes from the plants that are grown (even if they come via another animal that eats plants) comes from the Sun. Most energy, as in this example, only comes indirectly from the Sun though, which is also the case for most of our energy sources. Fossil fuels, which were created by the decomposition of plants millions of years ago, also are a very indirect form of solar energy, but that is not what we are talking about here.
Instead, the solar energy which we are discussing is the electrical energy which is created by the sun when its rays hit a photovoltaic (PV) cell. These PV cells are made out of special materials and constructed in such a way that when photons, tiny particles of light, hit them, electricity is produced. These PV cells are often put together to form solar panels, which can be installed on roofs of buildings, or put together in large quantities to form a solar power station. So what can solar energy be used for? Quite simply, the same as anything else that creates electricity can be used for. But let’s look at some examples.
Solar Panels for Houses
One option for people in the UK who own houses is to have solar panels installed on their roofs. The solar energy produced in this way will be able to power anything in their house which runs on electricity, from their television to a heating system. Unfortunately this is not a viable option for everybody, not only because they might not live in the right conditions to be able to have solar panels installed, but because of the initial expense.
Having solar panels installed is not exactly cheap, but they are an excellent investment if you can afford them. Not only will they save you money on your electrical bill, but with the feed-in tariff you will actually be making money off the solar panels eventually. It also promises to be a very satisfying experience, knowing that when you are doing something as simple as boiling a kettle or using your computer, that you are not depleting the planet’s energy resources to do so, and that in fact you are getting the energy directly from the Sun.
Solar Energy for Electrical Devices
At present there are not many portable electrical devices that can be powered by solar energy. There is the pocket calculator of course, or the wrist watch, but not a lot else. In the not too distant future however the technology will be readily available to power everything from mobile phones to toothbrushes with solar energy. Research continues in to making this a reality.
Solar Power Plants
In the UK plans are currently under way to build several solar power plants. These will be able to provide power for hundreds, if not thousands of homes. They will also be able to power factories and any other building which requires electricity.
So what can solar energy be used for? Potentially, almost anything.
Everybody knows that global warming is a growing problem. The driving factor behind it is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which is released when fossil fuels are burned. To stop global warming we therefore have to stop burning as much of this non-renewable energy. There are two main ways of doing this, using less energy and using renewable energy like solar energy.
With that in mind, here are the top five ways to stop global warming.
Switch to Solar Energy. At the moment it’s not possible to drive a solar powered car or fly in a solar powered plane, but you can use a solar powered computer, a solar powered washing machine or vacuum cleaner. In fact, anything that uses power in your home can be solar powered if you have solar panels installed on your roof. Of course this does involve an initial expense, but if you can afford that, then you will be immediately be saving money on your electricity bill. Also, you will be receiving money from the feed-in tariff set up by the government to encourage the use of solar energy, so that in time it will actually become a profitable investment. Most importantly of course, it will also save many tons of carbon dioxide from having to be released into the atmosphere so it will be helping to stop global warming.
Recycle and Reuse. A lot of fossil fuels are burned to provide energy for manufacturing. This means that if people stopped demanding so many new things, they would not be made and carbon dioxide would be saved. Recycling is a part of this, although that expends some energy as well. If at all possible therefore the best thing to do is to reuse. Most of us will think of plastic bags for shopping when talking about reusing, and that is one important aspect of it, but really anything which can be used again, even if it is not for the purpose it was designed for, will help to stop global warming.
Energy Efficient Products. There are certain things that we really need to maintain a good standard of living and can’t be reused. Things like light bulbs, transport and heating. In almost all cases though, there is always an energy efficient option. Everyone knows about the energy efficient light bulbs, you can also get energy efficient boilers for heating and also cars which are energy efficient. Any time you are about to buy something that needs power, ask if there is an energy efficient alternative.
Use Less. One direct way of using less energy is by using the products that require energy less. If a shop is in walking distance, then walk instead of using the car. If nobody’s in the room, turn the light off. Only use as much hot water as you absolutely have to. All of these things, although they sound simple, will end up saving a lot of energy.
Plant a Tree. One of the best things you can do is plant a tree or trees. Rather than using less energy or getting your energy from a different source, by planting a tree you are actually helping to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as all plants and trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.
These are the top five ways to stop global warming, and on behalf of the children of the future, thanks for caring!
Solar energy helps the environment by not creating energy in a way that is harmful to the environment, in contrast to non-renewable energy which does. It is not just because solar energy is renewable though, but because it does not emit polluting gas into the atmosphere. Then there are also the greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which add to global warming that are also released by fossil fuels.
There are two ways that solar energy helps the environment, in one way by being renewable so that it is not depleting the planets resources. Secondly, because it creates electricity in a way that is clean and does not release any pollutants or greenhouse gases.
Solar energy is renewable. That is, the energy created is not made by something which is going to run out any time soon. As long as the Earth and the Sun are around and sustaining life on the planet, solar energy will be available. Conversely, fossil fuels are a finite resource, so every time they are used to make energy, there is a little less of it to use in the future. In this sense, it is harming the environment to use fossil fuels in that it actively depletes the planet’s resources. Solar energy does not use any resources, after the solar planels have been constructed, so it helps the environment in this way.
Usually when people ask, “how does solar energy help the environment?” the main answer that is given is that it does not create any pollution. This is of course true, there are no fumes created so solar energy is an entirely clean form of energy. In fact though, it is even better than that. Not only does solar energy not hurt the environment, but by being a clean form of energy it indirectly helps the environment actively as well. It does so because all of the energy that is created with solar cells, that is energy that does not have to be created with fossil fuels. This means that all of the carbon dioxide and pollutants which would have been released by the burning of non-renewable energy sources will not be when the energy is created with solar panels.
One of the greatest potential threats to the environment is of course global warming. If all of the worst predictions to do with climate change come true then there will be very serious problems all over the planet. It is therefore important that we stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, and that means expanding the use of renewable energy. Solar energy is one of the most accessible and viable ways of doing this, and allows everyone to get involved by having solar panels installed on their roof.
These are the major ways in which solar energy helps the environment, both from being a clean energy itself and allowing a reduction in non-renewable energy being burned.
There are lots of reasons why it is a good idea to use solar energy. They fall into two broad categories: because it is good for the environment and because it is good for the individual. Both are important, the former because this is what makes solar energy valuable, and the latter because this is what makes it viable. It is not, of course, as productive in terms of generating electricity as fossil fuels – if it was, then it would probably be in very wide use already. It’s greatest advantage is that it does not damage the atmosphere in any way. as regular forms of energy do, however it is also good financially for people as well, especially with the government’s feed-in tariff.
The regular way of creating energy is through burning fossil fuels. They are very rich in energy and a lot of electricity can be created that way, however there are also harmful by-products. There is of course the pollution, which affects the local environment. Then there is also the carbon dioxide which is released, which contributes to global warming. The major advantage of solar energy is that it does not create any of these problems after the solar panels have been constructed of course, which expends some energy. After the initial energy expenditure, the use of solar energy actually starts to lessen pollution; for all the electricity created by way of solar energy, a corresponding amount does not have to be created by fossil fuels.
Therefore the use of solar energy reduces the demand for energy produced by fossil fuels, which means that less pollution is created, and less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Most people do care about the environment, and like to be able to help if they can, so when the question is asked, “why use solar energy?” many people would reply, “because it is good for the environment.” This is not the only reason to do so however, another reason is for the financial benefit.
In the short term, of course, there are no financial benefits. The cost of having solar panels installed are far more than a monthly energy bill. Again, if this were not the case, then everybody would already have them. So you have to either have some savings or capital, or else be able to take out a loan to have them installed in the first place. Once you do that however, over the longer term, the solar cells will actually save you money. In fact, with the feed-in tariff, eventually they will start making you money. The feed-in tariff pays you for all the electricity created which is subsequently fed into the national grid, so once you have paid off the initial installation costs this will be making you a profit.
So why use solar energy? In summary, because it is good for the environment and because it is good for you wallet… that is, in the long run, in both instances.
One of the best things about solar energy is that anyone can use it to power their home. It’s not like other sorts of renewable energy, such as wind or tidal, which requires large scale projects, you can have solar panels installed on your roof relatively easily.
There are many advantages to solar energy, and these are some of the more prominent ones.
Save money on your electrical bill. As soon as you install solar panels for your home you will start saving money on your electricity bill. This means that the initial expense of having them installed will immediately start to be repaid.
Make money with the feed-in tariff. The UK government is currently offering money for all renewable energy which is fed into the national grid, in the for of the feed-in tariff. This means that whenever you are not using the electricity yourself, anything left over will be actively making you money without your having to do anything. Therefore the costs of installation will be paid back sooner, and once they are you will begin to make a profit from your solar energy. The feed-in tariff is guaranteed at the rate you first get it at for at least 25 years, more than enough time to start seeing profits. The rate is probably going to be reduced in the government’s next spending review however, and possibly even before, so now is the best time to take advantage of it.
It’s good for the environment. All of the solar energy which is produced by way of solar panels is energy that does not have to be produced through fossil fuels. This means that the rate at which they are used will decrease, and less pollution will be released into the atmosphere. Of course one set of solar panels will not make much of a difference, but the more people who make use of them, the more the benefits will be seen.
Helps against Global Warming. The burning of fossil fuels will, as well as polluting the atmosphere, also release greenhouse gases. Notably carbon dioxide, which is one of the prime drivers of global warming. So if you really want to get involved and help in the fight against global warming, getting solar panels for you home is one of the best proactive steps that you can take.
Those are some of the reasons that having solar panels for your home is a good idea.
Sometimes people are put off having solar cells installed for aesthetic reasons though. Indeed, they are not allowed in some areas where there are conservation rules, as it is thought that they can ruin the look of a place. If that is a concern, then you can look into the solar panels which are made to look like tiles. Their use have made it possible for people living in areas where solar panels are not normally allowed to have them installed because they look almost indistinguishable from normal roof tiles.
So if you are in a position to get solar panels for your home, they are an excellent long term investment, both financially and for the environment.
In a sense, solar energy is the only sort of energy we ever use as it all originates from the Sun. Fossil fuels are a form of stored solar energy, as it was all formed millions of years ago by decomposed plant matter. Even the energy that we have to move our bodies comes from the Sun originally: the Sun’s energy being used either to grow the plants which we have eaten, or the plants that the animal has eaten that we have just eaten. What we are talking about here however is more specifically photovoltaic energy, that is, electrical energy created by light – the Sun.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of solar energy.
Renewable. Solar energy is one of the primary renewable energy sources available. This means that once the solar panels have been constructed they doesn’t use up any more of the Earth’s resources. It is a sustainable energy source.
Cost-Effective. Due to the fact that it is renewable and long lasting, it is a cost-effective form of energy. After the initial costs, savings can be made on energy bills and also, through the UK government’s feed-in tariff, money can be made on electricity that it produces. It is therefore a very good long term investment.
Long Lasting. Another consequence of solar energy being renewable is that it is long lasting. Not only in terms of the individual, but in planetary terms it has the potential to be around for a long time. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, will all be gone eventually.
Environmentally Friendly. Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to solar energy is that it is environmentally friendly. It does not produce any toxic fumes itself of course, and what’s more, for every kilowatt hour of energy it generates, there is a corresponding amount of energy that does not have to be produced by fossil fuels. This means that it actively reduces the amount of pollution which is created and the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere.
Relatively Inefficient. At the moment, solar cells lose a lot of the energy that they catch from the Sun. Photovoltaic cells are very complicated devices and it is difficult to make them in such a way that they convert the majority of the energy into electrical Power. In fact at the moment the very best ones can only get to about 40% efficiency. The good news is however that there is research ongoing all around the world to make them more efficient.
Cost of Installation. Although undoubtedly a good long term investment, the initial cost of installation is quite high which is what puts a lot of people off.
Not Enough Produced. In terms of whether solar energy will ever be able to do its part in taking over from fossil fuels, at the moment there is nowhere near enough being produced. As people continue to have solar panels installed on their roofs and new solar power plants are built, this condition is gradually being improved however.
These are the main advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. If you want to do your part for the environment and make a good long term investment then consider having solar cells installed on your roof as well.
History is filled with the discovery of new kinds of energy. Perhaps fire was the first, providing warmth at night and in cold climates. Later there was steam, coal, and finally those that we have at the moment such as oil, natural gas and nuclear power. The potential difficulty with most of these energy sources is that they are non-renewable, meaning that they are going to run out at some stage. Of course we also have a range of renewable energy sources as well now such as wind, tidal and solar. The question is really whether renewable energy is going to be able to take over from fossil fuels.
If renewable energy is going to be able to take over when fossil fuels run out or become too expensive and difficult to utilize, then solar energy is going to be a large part of that. At least, so it seems at the moment. Solar energy is one of the most popular and effective forms of renewable energy. It can be utilised on a small scale, such as in pocket calculators and on a large scale for solar power plants which can stretch miles across. And perhaps most importantly, on a medium scale, powering individual buildings.
The problem at the moment is that in many cases using solar power does not make economic sense. In the UK of course there is the feed-in tariff whereby the government pays for all renewable energy generated which is subsequently fed back into the national grid. This has led to a large increase in its uptake, but it is still nowhere near enough to not require electricity from conventional sources. Other countries have similar schemes, and at the moment Germany is leading in solar energy production. But will solar energy become more viable in the future, such that it does not require government tariffs?
As Virginia Woolf once commented, the future is dark, meaning that we do not know what is going to happen in the future. There are many reasons why the future could be bright for solar energy however. For one, there are a multitude of research projects ongoing seeking to improve the efficiency of solar panels. If they are able to make more energy then of course they will enable people to save more from having them installed on their roofs, and will also encourage businesses to build more solar power plants. Also, as any new technology develops, costs naturally come down, meaning that more people will be able to make use of them.
Hopefully we won’t be running out of fossil fuels any time soon of course, as renewable energy is nowhere near ready to take over completely. In the distant future, however, assuming that the efficiency of solar cells is able to be improved dramatically, will there ever be enough solar energy to allow us to continue with our current way of life? The answer there is a pretty definite yes, as the sun supplies us with enough energy every minute to take call of all of our energy needs for an entire year.
So what is the future of solar energy? Nobody really knows, but what is almost certain is that it will have a significant role to play in satisfying our energy needs.
Solar panels generate electricity from the sun’s rays through a series of interconnected photovoltaic (PV) cells also known as solar cells. These cells have an atomic structure of a kind such that when photons (little packets of light) hit them, they knock free electrons creating an electrical current. In combination with the cell’s electron field, a voltage is also produced creating Power. In this way, electricity is generated by solar panels. But how does all this really work?
Of course it is not necessary to know how it works in order to use it. Once you have solar panels installed on your roof, it all works automatically and you don’t have to really think about it at all. It is an interesting process however, and it can be useful to understand how it works so as to be on the look out for important advancements that make them work even better.
Most solar cells are made out of silicon. This is a semiconductor, meaning that it does not conduct electricity as well as other metals, such as copper for example, but does make it useful as a photovoltaic device. (In the spirit of deepening understanding, “photo” means light and “voltaic” means electricity.) Silicon has a crystalline structure, meaning that its atoms join together in a certain pattern that holds them all together but also leaves some electrons free. It is these free electrons which are let free and flow when sunlight hits them. However pure silicon is not very good at this because it is still a pretty tight structure. By adding some impurities however, such as phosphorous, the atomic structure is primed to work as a photovoltaic cell.
It is still a bit more complicated than that however. There is N-type silicon and P-type silicon, standing for negative and positive respectively. They are created by using different sorts of impurities in the silicon to produce different electrical charges. The N-type has free electrons in the atomic structure, and the P-type has free spaces (or holes) for electrons. Therefore, when they are put together, an electrical field is produced by the free electrons in the N-type silicon going to fill the gaps in the P-type. Not all the gaps are filled however, but an equilibrium is reached at the junction. At the point when photons hit the solar cell, if it has the right amount of energy, it pops free an electron. Then, because of the electrical field, an electron will flow between the N-type and the P-type, creating voltage and current and hence electrical power.
This, simply, is how solar cells create solar energy on the atomic level. Other points of interest include the fact that solar cells are coated in a substance to make them not as shiny so that photons are not reflected away. Also, they are protected from the weather by glass which goes on top of the cell.
How solar energy is produced with PV cells is a fascinating business, and research is ongoing around the world as to how they can be made more efficient. If you’ve ever wondered how it all works at the atomic level though, this works as a somewhat simplified explanation.
Solar energy is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy, and essential in the fight against global warming. But how much do you really know about it? Here are ten interesting facts about solar energy.
It is measured in Kilowatt-hours (kWh). To put that in perspective, you can burn a 100W light bulb for ten hours with 1 kWh of energy.
In 1767, Horace de Saussere, a Swiss scientist, invented the first “hot box,” which is used to collect solar energy.
In 1921, the Nobel Prize went to Albert Einstein for his work on solar energy. He came up with the idea that light is made up of tiny particles, photons, to explain the effect of electrons being released when light shines upon a surface such as a metal. This is the theory which is used in photovoltaic solar cells.
The amount of sunlight which the Earth receives every minute is enough, if properly harnessed, to be able to take care of all of our energy needs for a whole year.
Solar energy powers all of the satellites for communications and TV with the use of photovoltaic cells.
Every month, a 1 kWh solar system can save 170 pounds of coal, 105 gallons of water and prevent 300 lbs of carbon dioxide from contaminating the atmosphere.
Every solar panel is made up of approximately 40 solar cells.
Fossil fuels are a form of stored solar energy. They were made by decomposed plant matter hundred of millions of years ago. The plants got their energy from the sun of course.
The largest solar energy array is located in the Mojave Desert. It spans 4 square kilometres (one thousand acres) and produces approximately 90% of all solar energy produced on the planet.
If even a small portion of the Sahara Desert was set up with solar panels, it could produce enough energy for the entire world.
Solar Energy – Get Involved
Those might be some interesting facts about solar energy, but the best thing about it is that you can use it yourself. You may have already done so with a solar powered calculator or watch, for example, however you also have the option of having solar panels installed on your roof.
Now is the best time to get involved with solar energy, as the government is currently offering a feed-in tariff making it an even more attractive financial proposition. Solar panels will naturally help to reduce your electricity bill, but with the feed-in tariff you actually make money as well. For every unit of electricity which you produce and which is fed into the national grid, you get paid a certain rate. At the moment, that rate is as high as it is likely to be for years to come, as it will probably be reduced in the government’s next spending review.
Now is the perfect time, therefore, to make the most interesting thing about solar energy…
11. You just used it to make a cup of tea!