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Solar Energy and Solar Power
Solar energy is the radiant light and heat from the Sun that has been harnessed by humans. Solar power is the generation of electricity using solar energy.
Solar Power Technology
Sunlight can be converted directly into electricity using photovoltaics, or indirectly with concentrating solar power, which normally focuses the sun's energy to boil water which is then used to provide power.
Solar Cells and Solar Panels
A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell (PV), is a device that converts light into electric current. Solar cells produce direct current electricity from light, which can be used to power equipment or to recharge a battery. Most solar cells available today require protection from the environment and are usually packaged tightly behind a glass sheet.
When more power is required than a single cell can deliver, cells are electrically connected together to form photovoltaic modules, or solar panels. A single module is enough to power an emergency telephone, but for a house or a power plant the modules must be arranged in multiples as arrays.
Concentrating solar power
Concentrating solar power (CSP) systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. The concentrated light is then used as a heat source for a conventional power plant or is concentrated onto photovoltaic surfaces.
Image: The PS10 solar power tower near Seville concentrates sunlight from a field of heliostats on a central tower.
Concentrating solar power systems are mainly divided into three categories- concentrating solar thermal, concentrating photovoltaics, and concentrating photovoltaics and thermal.
Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) is used to produce renewable heat or electricity (generally, in the latter case, through steam). CST systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. The concentrated light is then used as heat or as a heat source for a conventional power plant (solar thermoelectricity). A wide range of concentrating technologies exist, including the parabolic trough, Dish Stirling, Concentrating Linear Fresnel Reflector, Solar chimney and solar power tower.
Concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) systems employ sunlight concentrated onto photovoltaic surfaces for the purpose of electrical power production. Solar concentrators of all varieties may be used, and these are often mounted on a solar tracker in order to keep the focal point upon the cell as the Sun moves across the sky.
Concentrating Photovoltaics and Thermal (CPT) technology produces both electricity and thermal heat in the same module. Thermal heat that can be employed for hot tap water, heating and heat-powered air conditioning (solar cooling), desalination or solar process heat.
Energy storage methods
Solar energy is not available at night, making energy storage an important issue in order to provide the continuous availability of energy. Solar power is an intermittent energy source, meaning that all available output must be taken when it is available and either stored for when it can be used, or transported, over transmission lines, to where it can be used.
Solar energy can be stored at high temperatures using molten salts. Salts are an effective storage medium because they are low-cost, have a high specific heat capacity and can deliver heat at temperatures compatible with conventional power systems.
Off-grid PV systems have traditionally used rechargeable batteries to store excess electricity. With grid-tied systems, excess electricity can be sent to the transmission grid. Net metering programs give these systems a credit for the electricity they deliver to the grid.
Pumped-storage hydroelectricity stores energy in the form of water pumped when surplus electricity is available, from a lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation one. The energy is recovered when demand is high by releasing the water: the pump becomes a turbine, and the motor a hydroelectric power generator.
Solar power has the potential to solve much of the world's future energy needs.
The inflexible photovoltaics that exist today, could be replaced by spray-on solar cells, that can be painted on city buildings or any surface. The plastic case of your cell phone, might one day be made entirely of PV material, that can charge your phone in any light. Batteries of the future will charge faster and store more energy.
Advances in nanotechnology, chemistry and physics could soon make solar power the best choice in renewable energy.
2.4-kW PV system manufactured by GE, installed at 11,000 foot elevation, on the roof of the Highlands Patrol HQ building at the Aspen Mountain Resort in Aspen, Colorado. Credit: Aspen Skiing Co.
This solar concentrator is 109.4 M2 with a peak power of 15 kW, has a fixed-focus faceted dish with a concentration of ~250 suns. The reflective surface is flat, single-strength back-silvered glass tiles with 88% reflectivity. The power conversation units is a dense-array concentrating receiver. It is single crystal silicon solar cells that reach a temperature of < 65 Celsius. They are actively cooled with radiation-fan and pumped water loop. The electrical connection is a DC output from solar cells converted to AC by solid state inverters. The system can be used for large fields connected to the utility grid, hydrogen generation and water pumping. Credit: SAIC Source:
The links below are handpicked to save you time. Please help support my work with a small GoFundMe donation.
Could This Be the Most Efficient Solar Panel Ever? - Smithsonian - 03/17
The future of solar power technology is bright - Ars Technica - 02/17
The state of residential solar power - Ars Technica - 02/17
11 of the Most Impressive Solar Projects Powering Our World - Popular Mechanics - 01/17
Infinite Solar Power Technology Could Completely Change Our Future - Futurism - 01/17
What’s the Difference Between Solar Panels? - Machine Design - 12/16
Emerging Markets Lead the Way to Cheapest-Ever Solar Energy - Singularity Hub - 12/16
Tesla's New Solar Roofs Are Affordable and Efficient - Youtube - 11/16
Solar energy is hot right now, in more ways than one - ResearchGate - 11/16
Floating Solar Farm - Futurism Infographic - 11/16
Getting the Most out of Solar Panels - Energy.gov - 09/16
Here Comes the Sun: Solar Power Is Offically Reshaping Our Energy Production - Futurism - 09/16
10 Solar Energy Facts and Charts You (and Everyone) Should Know - Clean Technica - 08/16
Solar energy: pros and cons of off-the-grid v. Grid-tied systems - Inquisitr - 08/16
An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy - EPFL - 08/16
Solar Impulse 2 flies into the history books with completion of circumnavigation - New Atlas - 08/16
What You Need to Know About How Solar Energy Works video - Fortune - 07/16
How sun, salt and glass could help solve our energy needs - The Guardian - 07/16
Tricky Questions on Solar Energy: Part Two - Yale ISPS - 06/16
Beyond oil: How solar power use could explode - Yahoo! - 05/16
Solar-powered plane lands in Arizona on round-the-world flight - Reuters - 05/16
Nano power: a new boost for solar? - Power-Technology.com - 05/16
Want Solar Panels on Your Roof? Here's What You Need to Know - CityLab - 04/16
Reducing the cost of wind energy for a renewable future - Youris - 04/16
Solar on all U.S. roofs would supply 39% of power - Computer World - 04/16
Nothing Can Stop Solar Now: Army Will Help Air Force Meet Clean Energy Goal - CleanTechnica - 04/16
Solar powering your home? An accountant and an economist weigh in - LA Times Opinion - 03/16
Solar Energy Is the Future; You Can’t Stop It - WSJ - 01/16
How rural Mexico was turned on to solar power - CNBC via Yahoo! - 12/15
Community Solar Brings Renewable Energy To The Masses - The Huffington Post - 12/15
Team demonstrates solar water-splitting technology - Phys.Org - 09/15
Home Solar Panels: Pros, Cons, and Hidden Costs - Expertise - 05/15
New concept in solar energy poised to catch on across US - Associated Press - 03/15
8 crazy new solar research breakthroughs - Yahoo! News - 03/15
High efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop - The Pennsylvania State University - 02/15
2015 is UN's 'Year of Light' — What Role Will Solar Play? - solarenergy.net - 01/15
A solar cell that stores its own power - Phys.Org - 10/14
Panasonic's HIT solar cell hits record 25.6 percent conversion efficiency - New Atlas - 04/14
Ordered carbon-nanotube design may increase conductivity of solar cells by 100 million times - KurzweilAi.net - 04/14
Ivanpah solar electric generating system connects to grid - KurzweilAi.net - 10/13
World record solar cell with 44.7% efficiency - Phys.Org - 09/13
Solar Decathlon 2013: Five solar houses to watch - New Atlas - 07/13
A new world record for solar cell efficiency - EMPA - 03/13
Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology - KurzweilAi.net - 11/12
LA opens rooftops for solar energy installations - New Atlas - 05/12
A limitless power source for the indefinite future - KurzweilAi.net - 11/11
New way to store sun's heat - MIT - 07/11
New solar product captures up to 95 percent of light energy - Phys.Org - 05/11
Solar funnel - MIT News - 09/10
Solar cell, heal thyself - MIT News - 09/10
New solar energy conversion process discovered by Stanford engineers could revamp solar power production - Stanford University News - 08/10
Transform the Moon into a giant solar power plant - Phys.Org - 06/10
A dazzling future for solar power? - CNN - 05/10
Origami Solar Cells - Technology Review - 11/09
Unprecedented growth seen for solar energy - Phys.Org - 02/09
How Does a Solar Plant Work - NextEra Energy Resources - 01/09
How do Photovoltaics Work? - NASA - 01/09
Solar Energy Basics - NREL - 11/08
Solar videos - How photovoltaics work - NeREA - 10/08
Scientists claim solar energy breakthrough - Edie News - 08/08
More-Efficient Solar Cells - Technology Review - 08/08
Saharan sun to power European supergrid - Guardian News - 07/08
World's biggest solar farm at centre of Portugal's ambitious energy plan - Guardian News - 06/08
Solar Power to Rule in 20 Years, Futurists Say - Live Science - 02/08
Large scale solar plants have a bright future - New Atlas - 09/07
Space solar power - Space Review - 07/07
Easy process to produce solar panels - Phys.Org - 07/07
Power station harnesses Sun's rays - BBC News - 05/07
American Solar Energy Society - Association of solar professionals & advocates
Eurosolar - European Association for Renewable Energy
Florida Solar Energy Center - University of Central Florida
How Solar Energy Works - Union of Concerned Scientists
How do solar panels work? - Youtube
Passive Solar Research Group - University of Nebraska at Omaha
Photovoltaics - Solar Power Labs at ASU
Planning a Home Solar Electric System - Energy.gov
Solar Energy - NatGeo
A flying laboratory full of clean technologies - Solar Impulse
Solar Today - American Solar Energy Society Inc.
Texas Solar Energy Society - Solar and renewable energy outreach and education
The Future of Solar Power - Solar Panels – Green Power Blog
The Prometheus Institute - Solar Energy Photo Gallery
Uses of Solar Energy - SolarBuzz
Global Energy Potential by Rfassbind [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons