For most countries around the world, solar power is the most reliable source of renewable energy. Unfortunately, as widely available as it may be, it remains an intermittent source, which is why it has to be supplemented by another source of energy and storage. Although current solar energy systems come with low average efficiency, developing high-efficiency yet low-cost systems is a move. Solar energy is an environmentally friendly solution, a greener option for living. Furthermore, the resource (the sun) is freely available, so it is highly advantageous in many places. Its cost is just mainly dependent on its setup and maintenance.
Stirling Disks are a type of Concentrating Solar Energy System. These are massive solar plants designed using modern technology to convert light to usable electric energy. Direct technology that uses solar energy relies on Photovoltaics, a system meant for homes and small appliances.
Understanding Solar Power
Before committing to solar-powered energy, make sure you have the right kind of information about it. Solar power refers to energy systems designed to produce usable energy from sunlight. In short, the system converts sunlight to electricity. In a way, most of the energy sources we use are indirectly sourced from solar energy. For example, the Wind would not be available without the sun. The sun also causes water to evaporate and later condense to collect in the rivers. The sun also melts ice and is responsible for the existence of bio-fuels. The sun is responsible for most lifeforms on earth. When these lifeforms die, they decompose and turn into fossil fuels. Solar energy is renewable, allowing us to tap on this resource at any time.
We use the solar power directly transmitted by PV (Photovoltaics) or indirectly using CSP (concentrating solar power). Photovoltaics play a key role in powering small- to medium-sized equipment, ranging from calculators to small or mid-sized off-grid homes. CSP, on the other hand, requires two methods. The first is by boiling water, which can be tapped for power. The second method requires a more complicated process because it uses technology like sterling engine dishes. These dishes then power a generator through a sterling cycle engine.
There is a cost consideration for solar power, but it has since decreased significantly in recent years, which means it is within reach of most homeowners. Small solar applications can also effectively replace certain energy sources in many areas of the developing world. Because it is renewable, solar energy allows you to pay for the use of this energy for 20 years into the future. With non-renewable sources, however, you pay as you consume.
Is Solar Power Efficient?
The main concern that many people have about solar energy is its efficiency. According to research, the current efficiency of photovoltaic conversion is 15%, improving. Some experimental models of solar energy systems can even yield efficiencies of over 40%. This is good proof that solar energy was becoming an increasingly superior power source compared to its status 20 years ago.
On the other hand, solar panels have an average of 20% inefficiency. That is not to say that solar power systems are not effective. Advanced systems have an estimated efficiency average of 40%. When the resulting electricity is converted from solar energy to light energy, the efficiency is reduced by 15%.
Solar panels can have reduced efficiency in terms of lighting. However, this can be remedied by maximizing the use of available solar energy in the form of sunlight during the daytime. There are also passive types of solar heating technologies available, along with high-efficiency solar panels that can be used to meet existing energy requirements. High-efficiency solar cells have the highest efficiency average compared to normal cells. Solar power systems do have low-efficiency averages. However, much research is already being spent developing high-efficiency and low-cost solar systems.
Benefits of Solar Energy Technology
There are still downsides to using solar energy. For one, it tends to be intermittent still, which means that there is a need to combine it with a separate energy source and provide storage to ensure that there is enough power. However, solar energy does come with several advantages, such as aesthetics, reliability, cost, sustainability, and low environmental impact. It is also more reliable compared to Wind and hydropower. After all, the sun is expected to keep shining for 4 billion years more.
On the other hand, Wind and water are not always readily available. In situations where there are cloudy days or nighttime, solar power may be too intermittent. However, this is completely predictable. Another key thing to remember is that even during cloudy days when the absorption of sunlight is relatively lower, there is still enough sunlight for solar power panels.
One of the best reasons solar energy is an excellent off-the-grid or alternative energy source is that solar collectors are low-maintenance once installed. Although solar cells can and will eventually wear out, they can last decades. Photovoltaic cells also improve each year in terms of durability. Their cost has also been steadily down, thanks to better technology and manufacturing processes. As a result, they are better at generating electricity per kilowatt annually. Once installed, solar cells also do not come with a high cost.
Lastly, solar power is environmentally friendly. When the push among energy consumers is to go green for the conservation and protection of the planet, solar power is an excellent option to generate and consume power because it does not produce pollution.
Solar-powered generators are an excellent choice if noise is an issue because they can be operated noiselessly. Solar energy does require plenty of space. However, the roof of a home or building is usually sufficient to make room for solar collectors. There often is no need to expand existing space to make room for solar panels.
Solar power systems also have a near-limitless source of power. There is enough solar energy to ensure that billions of households will use solar energy systems without fail. It is estimated that our planet receives as much as 175 trillion kW of solar energy every day. At this rate, there is enough sunlight to supply as much as 1.53 million Terrawatt hours per day. Other non-renewable sources of energy such as coal, gas, oil, wood, and nuclear power can only generate 15 times less than what the sun can produce. So as long as the sun keeps shining, then we have enough energy to sustain ourselves for a long, long time.
Do not let the appearance of solar cells put you off. Thanks to the current photovoltaic cells design, many products come in various colours to match existing roof colours. This should solve any issues related to aesthetics that many homeowners are concerned about.