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Solar energy is the technology used to harness the sun’s energy and make it useable. As of 2011, the technology produced less than one-tenth of one percent of global energy demand.

Many are familiar with so-called photovoltaic cells, or solar panels, found on things like spacecraft, rooftops, and handheld calculators. The cells are made of semiconductor materials like those found in computer chips. When sunlight hits the cells, it knocks electrons loose from their atoms. As the electrons flow through the cell, they generate electricity.

On a much larger scale, solar-thermal power plants employ various techniques to concentrate the sun’s energy as a heat source. The heat is then used to boil water to drive a steam turbine that generates electricity in much the same fashion as coal and nuclear power plants, supplying electricity for thousands of people.

How to Harness Solar Power

In one technique, long troughs of U-shaped mirrors focus sunlight on a pipe of oil that runs through the middle. The hot oil then boils water for electricity generation. Another technique uses moveable mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a collector tower, where a receiver sits. Molten salt flowing through the receiver is heated to run a generator.

Other solar technologies are passive. For example, big windows placed on the sunny side of a building allow sunlight to heat-absorbent materials on the floor and walls. These surfaces then release the heat at night to keep the building warm. Similarly, absorbent plates on a roof can heat liquid in tubes that supply a house with hot water.

Solar energy is lauded as an inexhaustible fuel source that is pollution- and often noise-free. The technology is also versatile. For example, solar cells generate energy for far-out places like satellites in Earth orbit and cabins deep in the Rocky Mountains as easily as they can power downtown buildings and futuristic cars.


Solar energy doesn’t work at night without a storage device such as a battery, and cloudy weather can make the technology unreliable during the day. Solar technologies are also very expensive and require a lot of land area to collect the sun’s energy at rates useful to lots of people.

Despite the drawbacks, solar energy use has surged at about 20 percent a year over the past 15 years, thanks to rapidly falling prices and gains inefficiency. Japan, Germany, and the United States are major markets for solar cells. With tax incentives and efficient coordination with energy companies, solar electricity can often pay for itself in five to ten years.

Source: – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/solar-power/


Energy Power, Solar, solar parks

Double-sided solar panels that tilt based on the sun’s position could boost the amount of energy collected. The two approaches existed independently before, but researchers have now looked at the effects of combining them.

Carlos Rodríguez-Gallegos at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore and his colleagues found that double-sided solar panels that track the sun would produce 35 percent more energy and reduce the average cost of electricity by 16 percent.

The goal for any solar panel is to absorb as much energy from the sun as possible, says Rodríguez-Gallegos. At present, solar panels around the world are predominantly installed with a fixed orientation, and absorb light only from one side.

The advantage of using two-sided solar panels is that they can also absorb energy that is reflected by the ground onto their rear side, says Rodríguez-Gallegos.

Two types of sun-tracking solar panels exist. Single-axis trackers follow the sun over the course of a day, moving from east to west. Dual-axis trackers also follow the sun over the course of a year, changing position according to the seasons, because the sun’s elevation is higher in summer and lower in winter.

In their analysis, the team calculated the global energy generated by a variety of combinations of different solar panel set-ups.

They analyzed global weather data from NASA’s orbiting Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System instrument and then estimated the total energy generated in different set-ups. The team found that double-sided panels would produce 35 percent more energy when combined with single-axis trackers, and 40 percent more in combination with dual-axis trackers.

The group also factored in the costs involved in the materials, construction, and maintenance of these solar panels, which differs between countries.

Combining double-sided panels with single-axis trackers would reduce the levelised cost of electricity – an indicator of how much a consumer pays per kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced – the most, by 16 percent for the majority of the world, says the team.

Source: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2245180-two-sided-solar-panels-that-track-the-sun-produce-a-third-more-energy/#ixzz6OYvoAa5g


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