Solar energy refers to the generation of electricity using sunlight and it is one of the leading technologies in sustainable energy production. Our current system of burning fossil fuels and coal to produce electricity harms the environment even if the rapidly depleting fossil fuel stocks were ignored. Solar energy is an extremely versatile technology, being scalable from smaller devices that power only a single house up to massive fields of solar panels that can power an entire city. This versatility makes it unique from other power generation methods such as nuclear, wind, geothermal and hydropower which can only be utilised in larger scale at the state level. It also allows several other uses for solar power that goes beyond producing power for general use or even to complement that of a national grid.
Solar water heating
Aside from generating electricity from sunlight, the Sun’s heat can be directly utilised to heat water. This is generally cheaper and limited in scope than generating electricity from the sunlight and using the electricity to heat water, but the equipment is cheaper, has no operational or maintenance cost and is more efficient with energy. The system works by cycling water through cylinders exposed to the sunlight. The larger surface area allows for more contact with sunlight and hence faster heating. This technology can be used to heat water for showers and geysers as well as heating pools. Specialised equipment for pool heating purchased from suppliers such as solar pool heating Brisbane can be integrated to the existing pool water cycling system to ensure smooth operation.
Solar fabric is a new technology that combines the photoelectric property of solar panels with the flexibility of fabrics, allowing electricity generating solar “panels” to be worn. This allows miniaturised power generation and can power small electronic equipment such as mobile phones. This may be impractical as the efficiency of solar panels is low and the area of exposure is extremely low when the fabric is worn. It is nonetheless an impressive technological feat and a testament to the versatility of solar power.
Saline Water Distillation
Solar heat can evaporate liquids, which is the principle used in the use of solar energy to distil salt water. The salt water is kept in a tank with a glass surface at the top which is inclined towards the freshwater collection tank. The solar radiation will evaporate the water in the saline solution which will then condensate on the inclined glass surface. Since the glass surface is inclined towards the collection tank, the condensed freshwater will flow towards the tank and will be collected there. The concentrated salt solution will remain at the bottom of the tank.
Solar cookers use foil as a mirror to focus the rays from the Sun onto the focus of the mirror. The sun rays that are focused on a small area will heat it to higher temperatures allowing food to be cooked or water to be boiled. A concave mirror focuses parallel sunrays on to the focus, on which the food is placed.