Guilt about my waterproof laptop and daily spa zapping up the coal power, means this solar primer will be the first of an every now and then series of articles about renewable energy. What is the state of a particular technologies development? What can be done with it? How might you integrate it into your life? Where’s it at, sunshine?
Why bother with renewable nrg?
Despite a high general awareness that energy waste is bad, it’s surprising how many people don’t quite make the link between their fingers and say a light switch and the coal power plant it is ultimately connected to, it’s related pollution, the greenhouse effect and global warming.
With an expected population of 9-11 billion people by 2050, and a much, much higher energy consumption in the west, energy is a key issue for carving out a decent future for ourselves this century. More than a few species will be hoping we manage to make a quick transition from fossil fuels to less polluting renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, wave power, or hydroelectrics. Research and development of these technologies, better funding and governments or institutions willing to show some foresight are sorely needed, but we can have roles too in helping develop renewable energy by supporting what is available.
What is solar power?
The energy radiated by the big burning ball energy takes about 93 million miles to get to us, but offers an estimated10,000 times the current global energy demand. Four-fifths of the sun’s energy falls on the sea. The remaining fifth, which falls on land, is still about 2,000 times greater than the total world energy demand. This can be captured using a variety of solar technologies. Passive solar techniques provide heat by conscious design of buildings. Solar thermal techniques using solar energy to heat water. And the ‘Photovoltaic effect’ generates electricity from sunlight, thanks to silicon – the second most abundant element on earth – and it’s light sensitivity to light and generation of substantial voltage when treated with certain impurities.
Integrating Solar Energy
You have options. Maybe you’ll get a solar powered battery charger to charge batteries for your walkman ( try dick smith or tandy ). Perhaps you’ll try a solar cooker for your food occasionally ( http://solarcooking.org/ ). Aware of hot water’s proportion in our energy bill, maybe you’ll convince the landlord to install solar hot water? And if you had the time, no doubt you’d build your own solar powered car with these simple directions. What everybody wants to do of course is run set up your house to run off solar.
Aside from repetitively rubbing your shoes on carpet, like many rural citizens do already, it is feasible to generate your electricity from the sun with a basic renewable energy system. You’re going to need some solar panels, you’re going to need some batteries to store the electricity, you’re going to need some regulators to protect your batteries, and you’re going to need some inverters to turn the battery power into mains power to run your normal appliances on. Here’s a system I prepared earlier:
( well, actually the Alternative Technology Assoication in Melbourne did most of it )
Still Not Sure?
Try the Australian Home Greenhouse Scorecard, a software package allows you to estimate a household’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and savings resulting from everyday activities including transport, hot water, heating appliances, recycling and composting. compare a household’s greenhouse gas emissions with those of other households, including an environmentally friendly ‘green home’. Explore ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by changing behaviour or using different appliances and forms of transport. Mac & PC available.