I was first introduced to solar energy in the movie, Race the Sun with James Belushi and Halley Berry in the lead. It was a story about low- income and under achieving Hawaiian students encouraged by their teacher to join the Solar Car race. In the movie, a car shaped like a cockroach and covered with solar panels used the sun’s rays as an alternative energy source to run the car.
Solar energy is the light and the heat from the sun. Solar energy is free and its supplies are unlimited. There are no air and water pollution caused about by using solar energy. But there is still some impacts on the environment although indirect.
Photovoltaic cells used to convert sunlight into electricity uses silicon and also produce some waste materials. There are also large solar thermal farms and these farms can also be harmful to the environment and desert ecosystems if not properly managed.
Solar energy can be used on different aspects. Solar energy can be used in agriculture. Greenhouses (which is entirely different from greenhouse gas) convert solar light to heat to be maximized in enhancing the growth of plants and crops. Greenhouses has been around since the Roman times and modern greenhouses were built in Europe in 16th century. Greenhouses are still an important part of horticulture nowadays,
Daylight systems are also being used to maximize the energy released by the sun. It is used to provide interior illumination replacing the artificial lighting. Daylight systems include sawtooth roofs, light shelf, skylights, and light tube. Daylight systems when they are properly implemented can reduce lighting-related energy consumption by 25 percent.
Solar energy can also be developed into solar thermal technologies which can be used for water heating, space heating, space cooling and process heat generation. Solar energy can also be used to distill water and make saline or brackish water potable or drinkable.
The solar water disinfection or SODIS involves exposing water-filled plastic polyethylene terephthalate or PET bottles. This process takes a long time, since the exposure time varies on the weather conditions. It requires a minimum of six hours to two days during days with overcast conditions. Currently, there are two million people in developing centuries use SODIS for their daily drinking water needs.
Also sunlight can be converted into electricity using photovoltaics or PV. PV has been mainly used to power small and medium-sized things like a calculator powered by a single solar cell. There are homes powered by photovoltaics. Using solar energy for water and space heating is the most widely use application of solar energy. While ventilation and solar air heating is also growing in popularity.
There are three main ways in using solar energy. The main way of using and converting solar energy is by using the solar cells. Solar cells convert light directly into electricity. Solar cells are also called photovoltaic or photoelectric cells.
Meanwhile, solar furnaces use a huge array of mirrors to concentrate on the Sun’s energy into a small space and produced very high temperatures. Solar furnaces are also called “solar cookers”. A solar cooker can be used in hot countries to cook food.
With all the benefits if using solar energy, there is still a downside for this alternative energy source. It does not work during night time. The cost of setting up solar stations is expensive, but the benefit of using solar energy when accumulated is so much more.
When things run smoothly, we enjoy a comfortable and convenient life. But if something happens to disrupt that grid, then what we depended on will come crashing down. When you depend on anything else but your own resources, you can’t count on it always being there for you. That’s why you always need to find a way to live off the grid.
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“A Guide to Going Off the Grid“.