Renewable energy is a form of power that is generated from sources (often natural) that are being constantly replenished. Thermal heat and wind are two examples, and rain and the tidal motions are two other sources that make use of water as a form of renewable energy. But the one renewable source of energy that we use the most is solar power. Why is solar power and sunlight used more often than rain, rivers, tides, winds and other renewable energy sources? Because it is all around us; sunlight beams down on us at every spot, unless deliberately sheltered, wherever you are on the globe.
Almost 90% of you probably could not say you have a raging river running near your house or property, or a tidal bore running up the road. It’s true that wind does form a large part of a renewable energy source that is practically everywhere. But wind often seems to be around only when low pressure is present. In the UK wind as a source of renewable energy is used only in the north and west regions of the country. Here the region is affected by transatlantic storms, winds and currents from the North Atlantic. In the south and eastern regions if the country, the climate tends to be more settled with lower amounts of rainfall and less wind. But like all areas of the planet it will have its fair share of sunlight, which is heavily utilized to garner solar power.
The sun produces so much energy that in just 60 minutes of its beaming onto our planet can be sufficient to provide enough energy to complete resources for an entire year on earth. But amazingly, solar power produces only around 0.08% of the globe’s energy demands. Solar panels, which are found on the roofs of houses, handheld calculators, the International Space Station and use cells that are found in semi-conductors similar to those found in microchips we see inside our computers.
On a far greater scale, power plants that use solar energy in a thermal fashion employ a variety of techniques to harness the sun’s energy at a heat source. That heat then boils water which drives steam turbine engines, which in turn generates electricity and the power that is demanded from it.
One method which is commonly used is where several elongated troughs of mirrors in a U shape focus the sun’s power on an oil pipe that runs through its centre. The hot oils then boil the water to generate electricity. Solar energy is noiseless and pollution free and the technology are also hailed as being very versatile.
Solar energy gets its energy directly from the sun in the manner of solar radiation. It then generates heat and electricity. The technology of solar power is mainly characterized by passive or active solar power depending on the way it captures the sun’s energy and then converts it and distributes it to where it may be needed.
Solar panels that are used on the roofs of homes and on the International Space Station are called photovoltaic panels, and these panels along with solar thermal collectors are used together to harness the sun’s energy and turn it into a renewable power source.
Solar power and the way we use power on this planet has been the source of much debate recently when it was announced that an eye-watering milestone had been reached. Mother Earth has now endured a whopping 410 parts per million of carbon dioxide emissions every single day. This is about 45% over the recommended limits that are set by scientists for regarding safe levels of toxic emissions into our atmosphere.