It is surprising to see just how many books, articles, websites and blogs have been written about the newest green technology being adopted by people all over the world: solar energy. This technology promises to solve many of the problems that accompany the use of fossil fuels, which include: environmental pollution, water quality deterioration, and soil erosion. But just how does solar energy work? Let us investigate.
Firstly, how does solar energy work exactly? It works by harnessing the sun’s power to generate power. When the sun shines, it heats up the Earth’s surface and the heat reaches the heated surface via the radiation (heat) part of the energy spectrum. The heated surface air and various other substances, including water and certain chemicals can absorb some of this heat. The amounts of these substances absorbing some of the heat varies depending on the temperature difference between the heated surface and the colder ground.
The heated air travels through a fan or fan frame that spins to continually increase the surface temperature of the air by increasing the amount of hot surface area. This air travels through a pipe or a duct to a tower where it is distributed among multiple tanks for storage for later use. There is usually a connection from the tower to a storage tank, so the solar energy can be accessed anytime. It is the individual’s choice on how they would like to use the stored solar energy.
A good thing about solar energy is that it’s not bound by the weather, it works even during a rain, or cloudy days.
There are some downsides to solar energy. In order to get the sun’s power, someone has to put up the tower, something that they are not very interested in doing by itself. It can be an expensive investment as the solar towers can cost thousands of dollars, though this is starting to decrease. The biggest problem is the amount of land that needs to be provided, as solar towers can be huge, ranging from a few feet to several stories tall. This means that the amount of land that needs to be provided may have to be decreased as a consequence. It is also dependent on the availability of water on the land that can also reduce the amount of land required. A disadvantage of solar towers though is the fact that they can be bad for the landscape.
The future of solar energy is bright, with the right technology, the amount of stored solar energy can be increased, which would greatly help us with our energy needs. The downside of solar energy is that it’s a resource that is limited, thus it is kind of like an oil that is also limited. It is good that we are looking at it though as it is better than burning coal and other fossil fuels.