Project Solar:Amanda Mahoney
The hunt for alternative energy is on throughout the United States and across the world. The world needs to look for new forms of energy that are not only reliable, but renewable. Solar energy is an alternative energy source that meets these criteria. Every minute enough energy from the sun hits Earth to meet our energy demands for a whole year! If only there was a way to harness it all. The main themes of this website will be how solar power systems work, examples of it used in society, and why it should be used in place of fossil fuels. Solar energy may be a right step towards our future, but it comes with many technical, social, and economic challenges. The technical challenges include the manufacture and production of the solar panels. The social challenges faced by solar energy include promoting the panels. Promoting the panels involves getting them advertised in the media. If you do not get the information out there about solar panels, potential consumers will not have knowledge about them. The economic challenges include the cost of the panels and the installation. These challenges must be faced to go forward with this alternative source of energy. The government needs to find ways to make the cost of the panels cheaper. By making the cost cheaper, the panels will be easier to promote and more people would be able to afford them. This will help address the challenges solar panels face. Solar power is an interesting and cool source for alternative energy. It is renewable; therefore we would not have to worry about running out of it like we do with fossil fuels. Also, solar energy will help reduce our carbon footprint due to the fact it does not release harmful gases that damage our environment and our health. Solar panels require little maintenance and they last a long time. By creating our own energy from the sun, we are will become more independent as a nation. We will not have to worry about our energy being shut off or paying a foreign country for our energy. This will also help our nation to become more “green”.
Solar energy is measure in kilowatt hours. One kilowatt is equivalent to one thousand watts. A kilowatt hour is the amount of electricity needed to burn a one hundred watt bulb for ten hours. Now imagine using a one kilowatt system on your house that produces 1,600 kilowatts per year in a sunny climate and 750 watts per year in a cloudy climate. The panels are composed of about forty solar cells, coming in ten to twelve panels mounted in a row. By installing this you would save three hundred pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into our environment, one hundred and five gallons of water from being used and one hundred and seventy pounds of coal from being burned (Smith).
Taking solar rays and turning them into energy only takes technology and a mind set to do it. Solar power is not extremely difficult to use or maintain. There are three simple forms of solar systems that convert solar energy into electricity. The three systems used are the flat panel photovoltaic (PV) systems, thin-film solar systems, and concentrator solar systems. The first system, the flat photovoltaic(photo meaning light and voltaic meaning electricity) or the PV system, are the systems most of society associates with solar power. This system uses photovoltaic cells to directly convert the sun’s rays into energy. Most of these systems are based on silicon materials. There are three types of PV cells on the market. They are crystalline cells, polycrystalline cells, and thin-film cells. Crystalline cells are formed from a single crystal of silicon. Polycrystalline cells are composed of many small oriented crystalline molecules. They use lower quality silicon, which is less expensive. The thin-film cells are composed of a thin non-crystalline layer, which is made from spraying vaporized silicon onto amorphous silicon. This has one fifth the amount of silicon compared to crystalline PV cells (Higgins).
The second system, thin-film solar systems, are PV systems based on nanotechnologies. This system use thin layers of solar-conversion materials applied to a thin layer of backing. The backing is usually a type of metal. The third system is the concentrator solar system. This system has two types of classifications. The first is the thermal-concentration system. This system takes the heat from the sun’s rays, which is reflected off mirrors, to heat water to high temperatures, which creates steam, which in turn runs a generator to produce electricity. The second classification of the concentrator system is the concentrator PVs. This system takes the sun’s rays to PV cells to generate electricity directly. Each of these three forms of solar systems will continue to develop as we move towards the future (Higgins).
There are three types of solar thermal power systems, which should not be confussed with the three simple forms of solar systems. The three simple forms of solar systems takes the sun's rays and makes direct energy. Thermal power systems are different and use turbines and steam to create thermal (heat) energy. They are parabolic trough, solar dish, and solar power tower. The parabolic trough has reflector that focuses the sun's rays on a receiver pipe located at the focus of the parabola. It tilts from east to west with the sun to ensure it collects the sun’s rays. The solar dish is always focused on the sun to ensure it collects all the rays it can get to produce the most energy it can. A solar power tower generates electricity from sunlight by focusing solar rays on a tower-mounted heat exchanger. This system uses hundreds of heliostats (mirrors) to reflect and focus the sun's energy onto a receiver tower (Smith).Below is an example of a parabolic trough.
Solar to Electricity
Solar Panels in Society
solar panels on roof by Kathy Swartz
Solar power is starting to become popular throughout our society. The White House, selected Wal-Marts, as well as individuals houses have started to turn to solar power as an alternative for energy. Two, individuals, Ian Woofenden, who lives in the western half of the United States, and Kathy Swartz, in the eastern half with her husband, have both turned to solar power. Kathy Swartz and her husband installed one of their solar PV systems in July of 2006 and the other in September of 2008. Both systems are 3.2 kilowatts and produce about 4,800 kilowatts a year. The PV system converts the dc (direct current) to ac (alternating current) so the grid may use it. The two systems power on average seventy percent of their household electricity needs a year, one hundred percent in the summer and fifty percent in the winter. To get the best out of the solar panels, they have to be set up at a specific angle. In this case however, her roof was close to what it needed to be. There is hardly any maintenance for these systems. In the winter her husband goes on the roof to brush them off. According to the owner of these wonderful systems, “solar makes sense”. First they are able to produce their own electricity without relying on other sources and second they will not have to use other sources of energy. She and her husband both work with solar, so they walk the walk and talk the talk. The price compared to other forms of energy depends on where a person may live. Where she is located (Western United States), the price of energy is cheaper, so solar is a little expensive. But in the end solar power is cheaper than the grid power (Swartz).
The second individual, Ian Woofenden, who lives in the eastern United States, has solar electricity, solar hot water, and a backup wind turbine. Ian put up his 18 solar panels, 50 watt system and his 140 watt solar tower in 1984. The structure he owns is a standard loan system off grid. He uses solar to charge batteries which in turn charge the entire house. The wind turbine is used as a backup only when it is needed. The whole system makes about an average of eight kilowatts a day. The angle of the solar panels on the roof is important so you are able to get the best use of the panels. The angle on his system is fifty degrees. During the winter, his solar panels are “hungry” for solar energy because the sun is out less compared to the summer months. He bought and installed these systems because they were cheaper than the utilities off grid and he was interested in going “green" (Woofenden). Ian and Kathy are booth taking action towards going "green" by using alternatives to fossil fuels. Hopefully more people will become aware of solar power and follow Kathy and Ian's footsteps. An example of his system is shown below on the right.
solar panels on roof by Ian Woofenden
The White House has taken a step in helping to reduce our carbon footprint. It has started the process of putting solar panels and a solar hot water heater back on the White House. This is not the first time that solar energy has been used in the White House. In 1979 President Carter first had solar panels installed in our nation’s capital. Within the next few years President Ronald Regan had them removed. President Obama announced they should be up and running by next spring. The system will take the solar rays and turn them directly into electricity, while the solar hot water heater will have a solar collector which will heat the water. Secretary Chu made an excellent statement when he said “Around the world the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy, it should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future.” This is an excellent national advertisement for solar power. The United States government is demonstrating their commitment not only by placing solar panels and a solar water heater on the White House roof, but also by investing over 150 billion dollars to improving our renewable energy systems now and in the future (Miller). They are planning to make this investment over a ten year span, which will improve the rate of going “green” as well as our economy by creating over five million new “green” collar jobs (Burns). This is a huge step in making the 21st century more environmentally friendly and solar powered.
Wal-Mart, like the White house, is also taking steps in going “green”. The company already has thirty one sites in Hawaii and California with solar installations. The company has started the process of installing the thin film solar panels on up to thirty of their stores roofs. The stores that are using the thin film panels are located in California and Arizona. The solar systems will supply twenty to thirty percent of the electricity for that site. Wal-Mart said they have a goal of one day using all renewable energy and creating no waste. SolarCity, a private company in California will own and maintain Wal-Mart’s solar panels (Gupta). Hopefully with Wal-,Marts going "green" in the western United States, other ones in other parts of the United States will follow. With big businesses like Wal-Mart and the White House both going "green", it will hopefully help push others to follow their lead.
The Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Power
Solar power is a renewable resource since it comes directly from the sun. It is also reliable because countries all over the world are able to use this source for energy. This helps make countries less reliant on each other and more independent. Solar power requires very little maintenance, so most companies place long warranties on their solar products. You can use solar power for a variety of things throughout a home. Solar power is able to heat your house and water, run appliances in your homes, lights, as well as your swimming pool. Industries use these panels for road signs (shown below), satellites, equipment, vehicles including RV vehicles. It is also a clean form of energy and is environmentally friendly, since it produces no waste or greenhouse gases. It also creates no noise disturbances, unlike other forms of alternative energy. Also, it is hardly noticeable, since it is on the roof. Users have no worries about it ruining their view. By using solar panels in place of other fossil fuels, we are helping to reduce our carbon foot print. While all these facts about solar sounds great, there are also some disadvantages to it. The cost of solar power can be quite high due to the materials used and the work that goes into making them. Most of the cost comes from the purchase and the installation, not from the running cost of the system. The cost of solar panels may vary depending on where the potential consumer may live and the company they may buy them from. United States businesses usually receive full payback of PV cell investment within five to nine years Cloudy days and night time can slow down the production of electricity by the panels. Companies are starting to work through this disadvantage and have developed technology that stores power in batteries that can be used during times when the sun is not out. In addition, while the solar panels themselves do not create greenhouse gases or pollutions, the manufacturing of the panels does produce some waste. Also, large solar power plants in the desert may harm ecosystems if they are not well managed. If a bird or insect was to fly into the concentrated beam of the sunlight, they may be killed.
In conclusion, solar power is an excellent example of an alternative source to fossil fuels. It should be advertised far more so our nation may become more aware of this energy source. Our society can rely on solar power because the sun will always be burning and therefore it is renewable. It would also help our nation to stop being dependent on foreign oil. Our nation would be able to produce its own energy and if there was excess, use it to profit off of. This would also help with boosting the economy. It would also be less harmful to the environment, people's health, and it would help reduce the carbon footprint. Fossil fuels release harmful emissions into the air, which can cause acid rain or illness to humans. Solar panels release no emissions and have no harmful effect on human beings. Also, the solar panels may go on your roof so the potential consumer would not really see them. This would be a benefit to the potential consumers who do not want something of such matter blocking their view of the world around them. The government needs to take action and put more money towards alternatives to fossil fuels before it is too late. In this economy, the price of solar power is too high for the average American to afford. Besides putting money towards alternatives, it also needs to find a way to make solar power less expensive so the American family could afford it.
Bourzac, K.. "Scaling Up Solar Power. " Technology Review 1 Mar. 2010: ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest.
Web. 5 Nov. 2010.
Burns, S.. "Making America a 21st Century Solar Power. " Power Engineering 1 Jun 2010: ABI/INFORM
Global, ProQuest. Web. 5 Nov. 2010.
Gupta, Poornima. Lesile Gevitz ed. "Wal-Mart to try Thin-Film Solar Technology". 2010. abcNews.
Web. 1. 21 November 2010.
Higgins, J.. "YOUR SOLAR-POWERED FUTURE». " The Futurist 43.3 (2009): 25-29. ABI/INFORM
Global, ProQuest. Web. 6 Nov. 2010.
Miller, Sunlen. "Solar Panels to be Installed on The White House". 5 October 2010. abcNews.
Web. 1. 21 November 2010.
Smith, Kimberly, K. "Powering Our Future." 2005. alternative energy institute
Spencer, R., and R. Goszkowski. "SOLAR POWER AT COMPOSTING
FACILITIES. " BioCycle 1 Sep. 2009: ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 6 Nov. 2010.
Swartz, Kathy. Personal interview. 7 Nov. 2010.
Woofenden, Ian. Personal interview 3 Nov. 2010.