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Solar Energy

Indirect Methods of Solar Energy Utilization (Including Benefits)

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Introduction

Solar Energy can be generated through various means; Direct methods, including thermal and photovoltaic, or Indirect methods, such as wind, biomass, wave energy, ocean thermal, and marine currents. Solar energy is best-known for offering self-generated energy that saves enormous costs. Solar plants consume energy from various indirect sources and generate electricity to run home appliances. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to ensure low electricity bills and generate green energy. Energy exists in various forms, which helps to harness the solar plants. Let’s understand Indirect methods of Solar Energy Utilization in detail:

5 Indirect Methods of Solar Energy Utilization-

Wind: The sun causes uneven heating of the earth’s surface, which generates atmospheric pressure. This pressure gives rise to the wind waves that occur out of diffusion. The area near the poles is comparatively less warm than the area near the equator, which makes it more vulnerable to the rise of hot air and pressure. The difference in pressure makes the cold wind flow from the poles towards the equator. The cycle continues as the warm air now migrates to the poles and gets cooled up. 

Biomass: Biomass is known as the organic material produced by plants and animals. As we all know, plants use solar energy to perform photosynthesis and produce their food; Similarly, animals feed on plants to survive. Here, solar energy is synthesized and helped to produce steam by burning biomass. It is then used to rotate the turbine and generate electricity.

Wave energy: Disturbance in the ocean’s surface cause the waves to move. It further gives rise to wave energy when the wind moves continuously. The winds are produced due to the heating of the sun. The cycle results in a strong wave that can travel several kilometres with no loss of energy. The waves produce kinetic energy, converted into electricity using the Wave Energy Converter (WEC). The technology is known to drive a generator to produce energy. 

Ocean thermal energy: The water’s surface absorbs the sun rays, making its upper surface warm while its lower surface remains cold. It creates a temperature difference between the upper and lower surface of the water. This difference in water temperature can generate electricity by setting up a plant at two levels or layers of water using a working fluid with a low boiling point, such as Ammonia. The fluid is transferred to the water surface before it gets vaporized. Now, the vaporized fluid is utilized to drive the turbine of the generator. Followed by this, a condenser is used to liquidize the vaporized fluid, utilizing the cold water from the lower area of the ocean. 

Marine currents: The marine currents comprise of two types, including surface driven and deep ocean currents. The winds cause the upper layer of water to move in its propagation which results in surface currents. In contrast, deep ocean-driven currents are caused due to differences in density of lower and upper layers of water. The density of the water depends on various factors, including water’s temperature, saltiness, and depth. The chilled temperature and high level of salt make the water-dense. The continuous movement of the layer of water gives rise to kinetic energy, which further can be utilized as electricity.

Benefits of using Solar Energy

Cost-effectiveness: Using solar energy proves to be a cost-effective solution. Traditionally, Solar energy has been used by people to ensure fewer electricity bills and more cost-effectiveness. With a solar panel, you need not worry about paying a massive amount of electricity bill.

Low cost on maintenance: Solar energy has been used for several years due to its cost-effectiveness, longer life expectancy, and low maintenance cost; It just requires time to time cleaning and proper maintenance.

Space friendliness: Installing solar plants on the rooftop or commercial buildings does not require much space. A small area of your rooftop is sufficient for the installation of the solar plant. Moreover, having a solar plant on your rooftop increases your house vendor’s value when its sale comes.

Promotes a green environment: as time has evolved, our world has come up with several advanced technologies to perform the everyday task of our life and various service to lead a comfortable life. However, some of these advanced technologies play a significant role in damaging or harming the environment. If you are concerned about the environment, then you must go solar. Using solar energy to produce electricity helps in saving the environment.

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Solar Energy

5 Major Applications of Solar Energy

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As per the current circumstance of the climate where the contamination level is soaring, it becomes significant for the people to take essential steps to advance a green climate. Solar power plants are proved to be a significant part of molding and saving our future. Solar power plants are playing a crucial part in advancing an eco-accommodating climate by performing self-power age. Solar power plants have been utilized for a long time in different households and commercial owners because of the few advantages it gives, including less force utilization, cost-saving, fewer support needs, advancing an eco-accommodating climate.

Solar power plants have been most famous for offering self-created energy that sets aside an immense expense. The solar panel consumes direct sunlight and generates electricity to run home appliances; this is possibly the most practical method of guaranteeing low power charges and creating environmentally friendly power energy. Solar energy can be utilized in various areas, including commercial, residential, roads, floating-solar farms, and solar fabrics. Let’s understand each one of them in detail.

Here are Five main Applications of Solar Energy:

Residential uses: A majority of households comprise rooftop solar plants in both urban and rural regions. Solar power plants have arisen to be probably the ideal alternative for regions where frequent power cuts are common. Solar power plants have been utilized for quite a while because of their self-energy generation from direct daylight and cost-viability. It helps in guaranteeing a low power bill on appliance utilization and advances cost-saving. Moreover, residential solar plants are easy to install and require less maintenance. It can serve you for quite a while to cut off on your power costs and save a considerable expense.

Commercial use: Solar force plants have arisen to be perhaps the best way for business and industrial owners to generate electricity. Solar energy gives the ideal approach to the battle against gigantic power bills. It lessens utility expenses as well as diminishes the dependence on the grid supply. With a higher return on investment, residential owners can secure their financial future. In addition to ensuring financial relief, commercial solar panels provide excellent benefits for the environment by promoting green energy. Installing a solar plant at your commercial place helps you ensure an easy supply of electricity and save many costs.

Solar-powered roads:

  • Incorporating solar energy in roads offer various advantages, such as generating clean energy.
  • Illuminating themselves at night.
  • Melting down ice and snow during the colder months.

Providing solar energy coverage to the roads can help in generating approximately 80 percent of the energy needs. Several factors affect road energy production, including panel efficiency, tracking methods, panel angle, sunlight hours, and temperature. It is crucial to ensure the material of roads as the asphalt flexes are prone to cause damage to the rigid solar cells while concrete materials are less flexible and support solar cells. 

Floating solar farms: In addition to the residential, commercial, and roadway use of solar energy, it can also be used on water bodies. Photovoltaics or photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems and designed to float on large water bodies. According to the research, Photovoltaics built on the large surfaces of water bodies can help in generating up to 10% of the country’s energy needs. Floating solar farms helps reduce the evaporative loss of water by suppressing algae blooms and reducing water treatment costs altogether. The technology is built on the farm area where there are significant water bodies. The solar panels float on the upper surface of the water and generate energy using direct sunlight.

Solar storage: With the continuous innovations in the modern age, now we can stitch small, flexible solar panels in the fabric of clothing. Solar fabrics or solar filaments are embedded in your clothing, such as shirts, winter coats, sweaters, jackets, which can consume energy from the direct sunlight and offer you several benefits such as keeping you warm, providing power to your mobile phone, portable electronics. In addition to this, Solar Filaments can also be used to lighten up building facades, awnings, curtains, and powering heated car seats. 

Enhanced use of solar energy helps meet energy generation needs and ensures a green environment. Solar energy is being gradually used on a larger scale to ensure a better economy and cheap renewable energy supply.

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Solar Energy

Panchtatva and the Multifarious Renewable Energy Sources

With the world facing an energy crisis, due to the increasing population and diminishing conventional sources of energy, and an environmental crisis, we are witnessing vigorous growth in the use of renewable energy, which a lot more than what was anticipated. This ongoing shift towards a brighter future is the result of the contrast between renewable and non-renewable energy. Among all the other differences, that make both the energies poles apart, the most intriguing one is the dissimilarity in the sources of these energies. While non-renewable energy sources are formed by different processes going in nature, mostly decomposition, the renewable energy source, on the other hand, is nature itself. The processes for making non-renewable resources take millions of years which renders them almost non-replenishable. Contrarily, since renewable resources are elements of nature themselves, they can never get exhausted.

Panchtatva is a Sanskrit term, formed from two words- ‘panch’ means five, and ‘tatva’ indicates elements. When put together, the word formed means the five fundamental elements of life- fire, water, air, earth, and sky. These five elements are the building blocks of everything in nature and carry a surplus amount of energy. All renewable energies are directly related to these five elements of nature and can be divided based on their relation to them. The different types of renewable energies are- solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, tidal energy, geothermal energy, and biomass energy. To better understand each renewable energy and its source, categorizing them under the five elements is the most straightforward way.

The first one, out of the five elements, is ‘earth’. In this context, earth refers to the land surface of our planet, on which we live and move about. The energy related to earth is geothermal energy, which is derived from geothermal sources located inside earth, mostly near the boundaries of earth’s tectonic plates. Basically, geothermal energy is the thermal energy generated and stored inside earth in form of vapor or water. It is generated from constant heat loss from earth’s formation and from radioactive decay of the materials. Hot springs are the oldest use of geothermal energy, dating back palaeolithic times, where it was used for bathing, and was later used by Romans for space heating. But, in today’s era it is mostly used for electricity generation. According to US Energy Information Administration, in 2019, there were geothermal power plants in seven states, which produced about 16 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. It is considered possible to produce up to 8.3% of the total world electricity with geothermal resources, supplying 17% of the world population. Geothermal power is cost-effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.

The second element is ‘water’ which serves in formation of two renewable energies hydropower and tidal energy. Hydropower or hydro energy is the power generated from the energy of fast-running or falling water, using turbines. In ancient time, hydro energy was used in irrigation and mills using waterwheels. The concept of these waterwheels became the basic idea behind the invention of turbines. In the late 19th century, people started using these turbines to generate electricity. Even today hydropower stands as the most used renewable resource for electricity generation. In 2015, hydropower generated 16.6% of the world’s total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity.

Tidal energy is another type of energy that uses water for generating power. It is harnessed by converting energy from tides using various methods. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun, and the rotation of the Earth. In ancient times, dating back to middle ages, tides mills were used in Europe and the Atlantic Coast of North America, where incoming tidal water was stored in large storage ponds, which used to rotate the waterwheel with the seaward flow. The process of using falling water and spinning turbines to create electricity was introduced in the U.S. and Europe in the 19th century. Since then, with the advancement of time, many methods were formed for power generation from tides, like tidal stream generator, that uses kinetic energy of the moving water to rotate turbines and generate electricity, and tidal barrage, that uses potential energy of in the difference in height between high and low tides. Sadly, the amount of energy produced worldwide using tides is low, but with technological advancement it is estimated that it will supply at least 10% of the world’s energy consumption in near future.

The third element of nature is ‘air’ and power generated using it is called wind energy. Wind energy is produced by using fast movement of the wind, which rotates windmills or wind turbines, generating energy. Although the use of wind as source of energy dates back to 5000 BC when it was used to propel boats along the Nile river, but the first electricity generating turbine was invented in 1888 in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles F. Brush which generated about 12 kilowatts of power. The world’s first wind farm, a group of wind turbines in the same location used for the production of electric power, was installed on the shoulder of Crotched Mountain in southern New Hampshire in December 1980. It consisted of 20 wind turbines, each rated at 30 kilowatts, generating 0.6 kilowatts of power. Today there are over 3,41,000 wind turbines on the planet generating great amount of energy. In 2019, wind supplied 1430 TWh of electricity, which was 5.3% of worldwide electrical generation, with the global installed wind power capacity reaching more than 651 GW.
The fourth element is ‘fire’ and the energy related to it is biomass. Although biomass itself is not related to fire, but it serves as fuel to ignite it. Biomass is any organic matter- woods, crops, seaweed, animal waste- that can be used as energy source. Biomass is probably our oldest source of energy after the sun, as people have been using wood to produce heat energy, by burning it, since stone age. Even today the largest source of biomass energy is wood and its residues. Throughout the world, biomass is the largest renewable energy source. It generated 71.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2016, constituting 70% of the share among all renewable energy sources.

The fifth and the last element is ‘sky’ or ‘space’. This element holds the most important energy source, not only for humans but to support life throughout the planet, and this energy source is the sun. The sun is the only renewable energy source that is present everywhere and radiates abundance of energy across the globe. Solar energy can be harnessed using a range of ever evolving technologies. The earth receives 174 petawatts of incoming solar radiation out of which only 30% is reflected back while the rest is absorbed by clouds, land masses and oceans. With the invention of the first solar cell in 1883, New York, by Charles Fritz, the solar energy never ceased to exist and is thriving with modern technologies. In 2019, solar power provided 2.7% of total worldwide electricity production. Although, it is the smallest energy source in the world, but it has the fastest growth rate with most emerging technologies.

This relation of renewable energy with the nature is the main reason behind its abundance in the world. Renewable energy is clean energy deriving its powers from the five basic elements, and with fossil fuels and other non-renewable energies being on the edge of extinction, humans need to adopt these renewable energies as soon as possible to carve out a better future.

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Solar Energy

History of Renewable Energy- a step back in time

When we talk about Renewable Energy, the portrait that comes to our minds is of a concept brought to life a few decades ago to replace the depleting fossil fuels and to reduce the harm induced on the environment to zero. While the reason, behind the use of renewable energy, we know is true to a certain extent, but we have got it all wrong with the dates. Although 1970s saw an upsurge in promotion of renewable energy by environmentalists but it was because of the growing concern about the depleting oil and our overdependence on it. And since it was all about promoting the already existing renewable energy, therefore it cannot be cited as the beginning of renewable energy being used by humans. In reality, Renewable Energy is a lot older than the fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources.

The Chinese are suspected to have been involved in the surface mining of coal as far back as 3490 B.C., but because of lack of evidence this statement is vague and questionable. Even if we consider this statement true, the era mentioned seems quite modern in front of the first use of renewable energy by humans. The first renewable energy sources to be used by humans, as far as we are aware of, were twigs and dry leaves to fuel fires. Twigs and leaves fall under biomass. To be more precise, biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Even after being the oldest source of renewable energy, biomass continues to be an important fuel in many countries, especially for cooking and heating in developing countries. The use of biomass fuels for transportation and for electricity generation is increasing in many developed countries as a means of avoiding carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use. But if we talk about the first use of renewable energy source after eliminating ‘used by humans’, we come to a point that the earth has been using sunlight as a source of energy, to sustain its ecosystems, since the beginning of life, which makes it the oldest use of renewable energy.

Returning to humans, the second oldest renewable energy source to be used was wind. Wind energy as a source dates back to 5000 BC, when it was used to propel boats along the Persian Gulf and Nile. Some Scandinavian stone carvings and paintings depicting ships are as old as 8000 BC, pushing the beginning of wind energy’s use to even older era. First historical record of a windmill found in Mesopotamia in the present-day Iraq and Ira dates back to 1700 BC. By 200 BC, simple wind-powered water pumps were used in China, and by 500 AD, windmills with woven-reed blades were grinding grain in Persia and the Middle East, and later in China in 1200 AD. With the time passing by, people in the Middle East were using wind pumps extensively for food production. Ultimately, the merchants and the crusaders brought wind technology to Europe, which, in turn, further moved to the western world with immigrants and a new era of wind technology started. In 1888 the first electricity-generating wind turbine was invented in Cleveland, Ohio. Although the first industrial use of wind energy was to propel boats, but wind turbine’s invention was the first energy generation at a large-scale using wind.

Third in the row, or the third oldest, water, is the most widely used renewable energy source generating 16.6% of the world’s total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity. The first known use of water as a source of energy was to rotate waterwheels and the first reference to a water wheel dates back to around 4000 BCE. The wheels were used for crop irrigation and grinding grains, as well as to supply drinking water to villages. In later years, they drove sawmills, pumps, forge bellows, tilt-hammers, and trip hammers, and even powered textile mills. The concept of water wheels later became the main idea behind the invention of modern technologies. Although, water wheels were the first water turbines but in its crude form. The turbines used today are a result of series of inventions, each made more efficient than the prior one. In 1876, Benoît Fourneyron developed a water turbine with efficiency of nearly 80%, and in 1849, James B. Francis improved this efficiency to over 90%. These Francis turbines became the base model for all modern water turbines and are still the most used water turbines. In 1935, Hoover dam became the first dam to generate electricity using water. Thus, began the modern era of the most used renewable source of energy, which now powers almost every building around the world.

Moving on, there is this another renewable source which is not as old as the prior ones in terms of usage by humans, but it is still old enough to make most of the non-renewable sources look modern. Sunlight, as a source of energy, finds its evidence in 3rd century BC Rome and Greece, where people used to bounce sunlight off using mirrors to focus it on torches, lighting it up for religious ceremonies. Sunrooms were invented in ancient times to capture solar energy for its natural warmth. Reflected sunlight was also used to heat water baths. In 1839, French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect when he noted that the cell produced more electricity when it was exposed to light. Almost 50 years after the photovoltaic effect’s discovery, in 1883, American inventor Charles Fritz created the first working selenium solar cell. Though we use silicon in cells for modern solar panels, this solar cell was a major precursor to the technology used today. With invention of solar panels, solar energy became the power behind many things around the world, from charging lanterns to generating power for satellites in space.

With the changes in eras, many more renewable energy sources were discovered and used. Some witnessed an advancement in the technologies, that used them to generate energy, with the development, while others are still being used in old traditional way. An example of the later is the use of geothermal energy, from hot springs, for bathing which is being used in the same manner since palaeolithic times. The vast history of the renewable energy is help people understand the power it holds and the benefits it provides over the non-renewable energy. Today we are surrounded with our mistakes from the past, that includes increasing global warming, melting ice caps, depleting fossil fuel reserves etc., and the only solution is understanding and adopting renewable energy as soon as possible. Keep the past in your head and the future in your hands.

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