Alternative Energy: Solar Energy Essay

Energy is something that the whole world relies on daily. Without energy the earth would be dark and nothing will be able to function. Recently there has been many issues with the different types of resources that are used to create energy. Many resources that are used are non renewable resource. This means that the resources such as oil and coal are not grown or produced, they are found in places in specific parts of the world. These resources are also known as fossil fuels. Researchers have been working for many years to find new ways to create energy without using these resources that cause problems for the environment.

By using renewable sources such as the sun, new ways to create energy have emerged. Solar energy is energy that is produced from the sun light. This type of energy that comes from the sun can create electricity in households. With new developing technology solar energy can produce different types of energy for different uses such as heating water or creating electricity for a home. This alternative energy that goes beyond fossil fuels can be extremely helpful for the environment but there also can be some downfalls for a consumer if they wanted to use solar energy to produce electricity.

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The sun has been played a very important role for earth and humans. It has been the producer of light and without it many things would not exist. Now another role that the sun is playing in humanity is being a producer of energy. The term solar energy refers to the direct conversion of the Sun’s rays to energy in forms that can produce electricity. (James R. Craig 2011) Solar cells, which is also known as photovoltaic cells/PV cells are devices made out of silicon. This device can turn the suns rays straight to electricity. The size of the PV cell devices can vary among many different products.

Many PV cells are used on calculators and with the solar energy can make the calculator work. Other people use solar cells to generate electricity for machines, buildings and other appliances. The silicon that the solar cells are made up of are semiconductors, so when the light shines on the solar panels electricity is created. A number of solar cells wired together form a solar panel. Solar panels are often installed on the roofs of buildings to provide some or all of the electricity the buildings use. To provide even more electricity, a number of panels are combined together to orm an array. (Walker 2007) Besides solar energy being used to produce electricity for homes or buildings, it is also used to heat up water. This is known and solar thermal energy. Solar thermal energy is mainly used to heat up water. “A solar water heating system is made up of a solar thermal collector and a storage tank. When the sun shines on the thermal collector, the water inside the panel’s pipe is heated up”. (Oxlade 2008) This kind of system can provide half the energy that is used to heat up water with other systems.

Typically a solar hot water system can cost anywhere from $7,000 and up and it can supply a household with up to 80% of their hot water. This system has been around since the late 1800‘s. In the 1890s, solar water heaters were used all over the United States, about 30 percent of homes in California used solar water heaters. By 1920 there were tens of thousands of solar water heaters being sold. At this time there were large oil and natural gas deposits found and because of this the price of fuel declined and the idea of solar water heater systems diminished. Today there are more than half a million of solar water heaters in just California. 1994-2010) People also use the solar water heaters not only for household hot water and heat but to also warm up pools. Although the main use of solar thermal energy is used to heat water, it is also used to produced electricity just like the solar cells. They have solar thermal power stations where heat is trapped and used to produced steam. The steam drives the turbines, which then triggers the generators to operate that produce electricity. See Figure 1 (Oxlade 2008) This technique is basically how fossil fuel power stations work but instead of burning fuels they are using the sun.

Since solar energy relies on the sun to produce the energy what happens at night? or when its a cloudy or rainy day? Many people may ask these questions before investing in solar panels. In order to produce electricity at night or on a dark day, the solar energy gets stored in batteries. (Walker 2007) Besides being stored in a battery for some places in which solar energy is used, at night or on a cloudy day the building will get the electricity from a electricity grid but if there is no electricity grid on that area thats when the battery comes into play.

The electricity grid is owned by an electricity company and they buy electricity from the buildings in order to store the solar energy that the panels take in. For the solar thermal energy, is each heating system the heat can be stored in a collector for a few days and without the sun it can generate heat if there is no sun available. With the economy not doing as well, many people are trying to figure out ways to cut back on their monthly bills. Many people believe that using solar energy to produce electricity in their homes will cut the electricity bill.

As much as this is true, to install solar panels can be quite costly. Solar panels are relatively expensive because of the silicon that is used. Due to the fact that solar panels aren’t mass produced in factories also makes them more expensive. Solar panels vary is size therefore varies in cost. The average cost of solar cells is about $4. 30 per watt, so depending on how big of a solar panel you need is how much that solar panel will cost. (2010) In the long run, many people do set up financing options and relatively are still saving money each month on their electricity bill.

The PV panels have manufacturer warranties of 25 years and usually last up to 60 years. (Pratt 2009) Pricing of the solar panels aren’t the only concern that people. Another concern is the solar power plants. Many solar power plants require large open spaces. They are usually built in deserts. Deserts are ideal places for solar plants, however these plants could cause problems for wildlife due to the fact that these plants take up a lot of area. See Figure 2(Rau 2010) Researchers are working on new ways to create solar cells without using the silicone to cut down the prices of solar panels.

If they can find a new method it would help the environment because more people will invest in using solar energy to produce electricity for their homes. Although the amount of sunlight that hits the earth each day “contains more than twice the energy we consume in an entire year”(1994-2010), theres isn’t enough solar cells/solar panels being produced to supply the whole world with solar energy. The sun factors into all the renewable energy resources that the world is using, such as wind and geothermal energy. There are many pros and cons to using solar energy as a way to generate electricity for many people.

With the silicon that is used to make the solar panels work being so expensive, the prices of solar panels will remain higher because it is not in high demand. If researchers are able to find new techniques to how to make the solar panels work without the silicone many more consumers will be purchasing this technology because the prices won’t be as high. The environment is in danger with all the fossil fuels being used today to produce electricity. Mining for coal and digging for oil has caused serious issues for the environment along with causing the risk of global warming to increase.

With global issues being a main concern for people, renewable resources such as solar energy might be the solution to help cut back all the fossil fuels being used in todays society. Scientists and researchers will continue working as hard as they can to figure more ways to factor the use of solar energy into everyday society.

Bibliography

(1994-2010). “Energy Story. ” Retrieved 12/4/2010, 2010, from http://www. energyquest. ca. gov/story/chapter15. html. (2010). Cost of Solar Panels. James R. Craig, D. J. V. a. B. J. S. (2011). Earth Resources and The Environment. New Jersey, Prentice Hall. Oxlade, C. (2008). Fueling The Future: Solar Energy. Chicago,Illinois, Heinemann Library. Pratt, R. A. E. a. D. (2009). Got Sun? Go Solar. Colorado, PixyJack Press. Rau, D. M. (2010). Alternative Energy: Beyond Fossil Fuels. Mankato,MN, Compass Point Books. Walker, N. (2007). Harassing Power From The Sun. Canada, Crabtree Publishing Company.

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