From earliest recorded history Solar power has been important. The ancient Egyptians (and other ancient cultures) worshiped the sun as the ultimate source of power, and so who are we to challenge the concept. They were able to use solar energy to bake clay brick and build temples that stood for thousands of years. In fact over the last two or three thousand years we have more and more reasons to recognise it’s power over our lives. The trick, as always, is how to use that power wisely.
Leonardo daVinci in the 15th century also recognised the power of the sun and with a series of concave mirrors was able to focus the solar energy on a cooking pot and boil water. Five hundred years later we know you can do things like that but lack the patience and the inventive genius to actually do it!
In 1838 Edmund Becquerel recognised that some materials were able to turn sunlight into energy, and though he published his findings nobody was particularly interested. A few others played with these ideas but it was not till 1921 when Albert Einstein published his theories on photoelectric effect and was awarded the Nobel prize that many people even noticed its possibilities.
The fact is if it wasn’t for the need to power satellites it may have been entirely forgotten! The research into how to power the Vanguard 1 satellite in 1958 resulted in some quantum leaps forward for Photovoltaic cells (PV cells) and these cells have continued to be a part of satellite programs ever since.
During the 1970’s there was another surge forward when the manufacturing costs dropped from about $100 per watt to a mere $20 per watt, and this resulted in making them much more available for a range of new applications such as railroad and road warning signs, lighthouses and warning buoys.
During the last 15 to 20 years the price of PV cells has continued to fall and the efficiency has continued to increase, making them much more available to ordinary citizens to power holiday homes and other locations that did not have access to the national power grid. The most recent development has been the tax incentives offered by many governments to encourage domestic premises to install Solar panels with the excess production being fed back into the commercial grid.
Yet for all that, solar energy technology produces less than one tenth of one percent of global energy demand! Yes, we have made some great progress but here is still a long way to go.
So, where to from here? Solar energy facts are good to know, an important first step, but we also need to act on this information.
Shell Oil predicts that by mid century, up to 30% of the world’s energy could come from renewable sources. However, that will not just happen we will have to make it happen by accepting some short term pain to get that long term gain. What are you prepared to do to help?
This ebook, GREEN ENERGY 101, is an excellent resource for those who are interested in learning more about alternative energy. This e-book explains alternative energy systems, going into detail the different types of alternative energy available and what systems are available to homeowners as well as their advantages and disadvantages. Well worth reading!