Have you seen the movie involving a race car powered solely by solar power? it was certainly a race with a difference a car powered by the Sun! a car covered with solar panels using the sun’s rays as an alternative energy source to power the car. Solar energy is the light and the heat from the sun. Solar energy is free and its supplies are unlimited and there are only a few minor drawbacks.
The downsides to this source of sustainable energy can be explained as follows; Photovoltaic cells used to convert sunlight into electricity uses silicon and this 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 for example it can be used in agriculture;
Greenhouses convert solar light to heat to be maximized in enhancing the growth of plants and crops. Greenhouses have been around since the Roman times and modern greenhouses were first used in Europe in 16th century to provide food for their armies in an otherwise difficult environment. Greenhouses are still an important part of horticulture nowadays allowing almost continuous food production throughout the year,.
Daylight systems are also being used to maximize the energy released by the sun. It is used to provide interior illumination by replacing the artificial lighting. Daylight systems include sawtooth roofs, light shelf, skylights, and light tube. Assuming daylight systems are properly implemented they 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 distil 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 countries using SODIS for their daily drinking water.
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 which is the most widely use application of solar energy, meanwhile ventilation and solar air heating are 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 used for cooking, 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“. These can be used in hot countries to cook food as a method of cooking their food.
With all the benefits if using solar energy, there is still a downside for this alternative energy source, Can you guess what this is? Yeah That’s right. It does not work during night time!
Another downside is that the initial cost of setting up a solar power station is expensive, but personally I think the benefit of using solar energy as an alternative power source far our weighs the downsides.