Alternate energy sources designed to save money and the environment.
One of the advantages of solar power systems is that there are no moving parts to break and very little maintenance required. Regardless of the size and purpose there are two basic types of solar power systems, active and passive and the choice of systems usually depends on location and the anticipated periods without sunshine. Active systems will have a supplemental means of supplying electricity such as being connected to the power grid or a generator, where a passive system is wholly dependent on the sun.
With renewed interest in non-polluting power production solar power systems are experiencing more research and batter acceptance since their initial public release of 40 years ago. The earlier systems required a hefty investment in the structure and were only considered a good investment for certain areas of the country. The efficiency of the systems also made many believe that initial investment was not worth the effort, especially with the low cost of electricity being produced by coal-fired generators.
However, as global warming is becoming a major environmental issue, along with air pollution and the rising cost of electricity, interest is high for solar power systems whether for individual residential systems or large plants to supply power to entire communities.
Simple Theory Requires Complex Structures
The theory of solar power systems is sound and fairly simple. Photovoltaic cells, designed to convert the rays from the sun into electricity, are pointed at the sun and connected to a device that operates on 12-volt direct current. They can also be connected to storage batteries to save any power not used by the device. When the sun goes down, the device can continue to operate from the power stored in the battery.
A few initial issues had to be overcome such as not having everything used in a home operational on 12-volt direct current. The amount of power produced by solar power systems can be increased by adding more cells. By adding more batteries, more power can be stored for nighttime use. Adding a converter to solar power systems enables the use of 110-volt alternating current to be used, which is what powers most home appliances and a regulator will prevent the batteries from overcharging and help direct the power to where it is needed.
Advances in photovoltaic technology is making the cells thinner and more efficiency, which is making the pay off for installation much shorter and making the installation of solar power systems more attractive for residential and commercial use.
Solar Power Plant Offers Cheap, Clean Power
Like shining towers popping up in deserts all around the globe, a solar power plant promises to supply cheap, clean electricity without the need for using the world’s supply of non-renewable resources. Most are being built in the sandy, sunny confines where the hours of sunshine far surpass the cloudy skies, using the power of the sun to produce electricity and store it for distribution without the pollution usually associated with electricity production.
One such solar power plant uses 90,000 photovoltaic cells to convert the energy from the sun into electricity. The solar power plant is situated on just under 17 acres of land and is capable of producing six megawatts of power, enough to power an average size city. Using thin film cells, which are cheaper and more efficient than crystalline cells, the plant offers a clean alternative than burning coal or natural gas.
As the price of oil influences the rise in electric costs and the threat of global warming is threatening the use of coal-fired electric generating plants, more companies are looking at initiatives to use renewable resources. Using the sun, wind and water to produce electricity and help maintain a healthy environment, building the solar power plant on the desert allows the use of land formerly believed to be unusable.
New Technology Lowering Solar Power Costs
As new solar cell designs are perfected and competition in the production of cells increases, the costs of the cells are coming down. The new thin film photovoltaic cells are considerably cheaper than the originally designed crystalline cells and are more efficient. Many of the earlier photovoltaic cells were not suitable for use in a solar power plant, as their efficiency was only about 15 percent. The newer cells being developed have an efficiency of about 40 percent.
Use of land in the desert is also positive for the environment as it protects wildlife in more habitable areas from being used to build a solar power plant. There are not many people or businesses building homes and wanting to live in the desert and the solar power plant can make use of this otherwise uninhabitable land.
Additionally, a solar power plant requires an area offing abundant sunshine and the deserts are an ideal spot. The deserts natural environment, which turns many away for its unforgiving sun and heat, makes a solar power plant more efficient for more days out of the year. They can also help provide employment opportunities in the technology field of solar power production.
Hydro Power Returning to Popular Culture
The use water to take the place of manual labor has been around since the beginning of man and evidence of some of the first commercial uses of hydro power are still evident in old milling factories. Hydro power was used to turn large water wheels connected to grinding stones to mill flour and other grains. The city of Niagara Falls uses the power of the river below the falls to produce electricity to power two international cities and Hoover Dam on Lake Mead in Nevada helps keep the city of Las Vegas brightly lit.
The availability of hydro power is somewhat limited to areas in which water traveling at appropriate speeds is readily available. Some small streams and rivers have been blocked by dams to create sufficient fall into impellers to run turbines to generate electricity. Some homeowners have devised small hydro power devices to produce a limited amount of electricity for their home’s outdoor needs.
More people are becoming interested in methods to produce hydro power as a means of supplementing the need for alternative energy. The sun, wind and water are being tapped as a means to create environmentally friendly generating plants, while save the non-renewable energy resources still available.
Available Sources of Energy Vary by Geography
Solar power is a rapidly expanding source of power, but in many areas of the world the sun does not shine throughout the year, and never at night. The use of the wind is also limited as climatic differences in the amount of wind blowing at any one time, make its use somewhat unpredictable. The use of hydro power, while limited to areas with an available adequate water source however, is reasonably dependable. Depending on the climate however, drought can cause the river to dry up and severe winter weather can cause it to freeze.
As the power grid in the country continues to expand, it is becoming possible to divert some of the electricity generated by hydro power to other areas of the country where it cannot be produced. By adding the power of a raging river to the grid, it create an even bigger pool from which power can be drawn. It is feasible that power produced from a mountain river to be used by people living thousands of miles away.
Even small streams can provide the means to produce a small amount of electricity using small generators or alternators. There are some small farms using this type of hydro power to generate power to operate some of the electric equipment and help cut their home’s energy consumption.