Solar Power Energy
Solar power energy is one of the types of renewable energy that has been growing exponentially these last few years.
The global warming issue has attracted the world’s attention on the environmental effects of using highly polluting and non renewable energies like fossil fuels. There is a call worldwide to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and instead turn to greener and more sustainable energy sources. Hence, the stage is set for greater awareness and use of renewable, non polluting energies like solar energy.
But the use of solar power energy isn’t new. The Sun is the world’s primary source of energy and without it, life wouldn’t possible. In other words, since the beginning of time, life on earth has been making use of solar energy.
And when Man came along, he has also made use of solar power – he tapped on the heat energy from the sun by choosing caves facing the Sun. Eventually, he learnt to grow crops using the sun’s energy, and even learnt to concentrate sunbeams to start fires. Read about the advantages of solar energy.
In today’s world where the demand for energy is a lot greater than in pre-historic times, Man must find ways to tap more efficiently on the sun’s energy. This led to the discovery of solar energy cells – systems that are able to generate electricity using solar power energy. Read about the history of solar energy.
Typical solar cells generate electricity from sunlight via the photovoltaic effect. Read facts about solar energy cells
and how they work. Because a single solar cell produces only a limited amount of energy, many solar cells are then often put together and interconnected by conducting wires to form a solar panel. Several panels could be put together to form an photovoltaic installation system. In turn, fixtures to solar panels, like solar concentrators
help to increase the efficiency of the solar panels.
Besides the use of solar cells and the photovoltaic effect, Man has also learnt to tap on solar power energy by concentrating solar power. Through the use of devices like mirrors, lenses and tracking systems, rays from the sun is focused into a small beam, and the heat from the concentrated heat is used as a source of heat in a conventional power plant (e.g. plants that uses steam to turn turbines).
Today, solar power energy has several uses but the most common is that of generating electricity for electrical grids all over the world. The percentage of electricity produced from solar energy is still minimal when compared to other energy sources like natural gas, coal or oil (all of which are very polluting, with coal at the top of the list). Solar energy accounts for about 0.5% of the world supply, but this number is very likely to grow in the following years, with the rising need to curb global warming and reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar power energy could be producing 22% of the world’s electricity in 2050. If solar power were to provide for 22% of the global demand for electricity, then around 5Gt (giga tones) of carbon dioxide emissions per year could be avoided.
Many countries are building or already have their own solar power plants. One of the world’s largest photovoltaic power station resides in Canada, while others reside in Europe, mainly in Italy, Germany and Spain. The Canadian station, called Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant, has a peak power of 97 Megawatts. The United States are also investing in solar energy, especially in concentrating solar power plants. The US has some of the world’s biggest concentrating solar power plants in California and Nevada, and when the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California is built, it will be the world’s largest solar facility.
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