- Solar Energy
The words “Solar Energy” have been increasingly heard on the news and in popular conversation. It's appearance in our daily vernacular has become somewhat commonplace as people complain about the high cost of heating and cooling their homes. As the price of gasoline continues to edge upward following the geographic and the political turmoil that surrounds the use of petroleum products, the ability to harness the power of the sun is often called into play.
Taking the light and heat produced by the sun and use it to further a myriad of technologies is known as Solar Energy. This form of energy which can also be used to heat, cool and otherwise produce electricity is becoming the go-to energy source of builders, homeowners and global energy companies. With the resources of the sun carefully contained and preserved as energy, a number of energy based technologies have begun to enter the consumer market.
Industries such as solar architecture, solar heating and solar thermal electricity are beginning to be used with increased regularity by public utility companies. University research centers have also found success with the use of stored solar energy to produce a form of artificial photosynthesis that can be used to increase agriculture and therefore, global food production.
The demand for alternative forms of energy and the harnessing of natural forms of energy like that of Solar Energy began to accelerate after the creation of OPEC and the oil embargo situation of 1973 and 1979. At this time, the countries of the first-world began to reassess their energy policies. Not only was the cost of oil products carefully evaluated, but the role it played in the depletion of our global resources was given the attention it deserved.
Solar Energy has become a watch-word for conservation groups and environmental agencies around the world. It's usage presents the promise of an inexhaustible supply of energy at affordable prices for nations on every continent. When collected and used properly, it supplies none of the issues that surround such materials as petroleum, coal and the burning of forest land.
Furthermore, the promise of automobiles that can run either solely or partially on solar energy has been filled with exciting developments for years. With cars and other vehicles running on the solar power, problems with exhaust and the pollution it creates will largely disappear. Once the global environment has been able to rid itself of its demand for fossil fuels, the goal of halting climate change can be realized.
This dream is not without its detractors, but it has been proved to be highly realistic. The planet Earth receives solar radiation on a constant basis. Scientists in the field estimate that approximately 30% of this solar force is reflected back into the darkness of space. The rest of this solar force is absorbed by the atmosphere of Earth. This means the sky, land and oceans we have come to recognize on our home planet. The wide spectrum of light that is produced by the power of the sun ranges from invisible, to infrared and to the near-ultraviolet form.
Most of us are familiar with the solar power that reaches the land mass we live on. This form of solar energy is so massive that it is twice as powerful as all other forms of energy. This includes all those non-renewable energy resources that have been traditionally removed from the earth such as natural gas, oil, uranium (nuclear reactors) and coal.
This supports studies from environmentalists and conservation advocates. Forms of energy mined from the sun is available at different levels depending upon its strength. From a worldwide view, this makes its collection easy depending upon one's geographical location. Obviously those countries closer to the equator will have solar strengths different from those regions nearer to the Earth's magnetic poles.
Technologies generated by solar energy are usually divided into two general categories. Forms of energy are considered either passive or active. Their classification depends on how the power of the sun is either distributed, converted or captured for its commercial use. Both passive and active solar energy play an important role in its commercial usage and technical applications.
Forms of active solar energy would include solar photo panels and thermal solar collectors. These can be seen on the roofs of residential and commercial buildings. These active solar collectors may also use fans and pumps to convert the collected rays of the sun into chemical forms of energy. Active forms of solar technology are often known as the “supply side” of solar energy.
A form of passive solar energy is likely to pertain to such collection techniques as architecture that purposely places windows on the sunny side of a building. Or it could be described as those new buildings that feature central areas deliberately left open to collect sunshine during the day. These open spaces also work to naturally circulate air and light instead of relying on artificial lightening sources. Homes, workplaces and schools that utilize passive solar energy may be especially built with thermal materials to conserve heat. Passive solar energy is more commonly known as a “demand side” energy source.
The importance of Solar Energy becomes apparent when we look at how we heat our water and our homes when the temperature dips. The use of interior and exterior forms of electricity can also benefit from active solar energy. This photovoltaic power of solar panels work to create electricity with an efficient usage of daylight and sunshine. This photoelectric effect is even more impressive when we consider the amount of electricity we use to support an increasingly technical economy.
Likewise, Solar Energy also becomes useful when we look to cool our buildings during the warm weather months. In the United States alone, HVAC systems responsible for heating, ventilation and air conditioning account for between 30 to 50% of our energy usage. Solar Energy technologies can be used to offset these figures. This will make for more affordable energy for both residential and commercial property owners.