Solar energy is that renewable energy source which we get from the Sun.
Solar energy has been used since prehistoric times. After the dramatic rise in oil prices in the 1970s, several countries started to exploit solar energy.
In India too, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources are formulating a strategy to have a more solar power.
So, this green energy can be utilized in more than a million households in the next few years.
India is among one of the few countries with plenty of sunshine, especially in the Thar desert region. This zone, having abundant solar energy available, is suitable for harnessing.
It is becoming cheaper to make electricity from solar energy comparing to non renewable sources of energy. The other cheap option to produce electricity is nuclear energy, the details you will get from below article.
As this is a comprehensive guide, I will cover maximum information on solar energy.
In this guide, you will find the information regarding the history of solar energy, active solar system and passive solar energy system, solar panel types, Solar Photovoltaic Cell, types of solar power plants, solar energy advantages, and disadvantages, etc.
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History of Solar Energy
Table of Contents
The history of solar energy is as old as humankind. Two centuries ago, we started using this clean energy to make electricity.
The first recorded use of utilizing the sun energy was in the 7th century BC when magnifying glasses or crystals were used to light fires.
As per record in AD 20, the Romans, Greeks, and Chinese also used solar energy for domestic and ceremonial purposes.
The Swiss inventor Horace de Saussure made the first Solar Collector in 1767.
John Ericsson invented the parabolic trough in the mid-1870. The power generated was used to power a steam generator, which gave power to a water pump.
In 1876, photovoltaic energy is invented by William Grylls Adams and Richard Day.
Photovoltaic is the word that describes converting sunlight into electricity.
In 1954, D.M. Chapin, C.S. Fuller, and G.L. Pearson patented a way of making electricity directly from sunlight using silicon-based solar cells.
In 1960s-70s, PV development increased dramatically. In 1976, David Carlson and Christopher Wronski manufactured the first amorphous solar panel.
Nowadays, you can see solar panels everywhere. Solar cells are quickly becoming a cost-effective alternative that will allow for serious consideration as an alternative source of electricity.
Much can be learned from the ancients in harnessing passive energy in order for us to be more efficient.
Is solar energy renewable or non-renewable?
In simple, the energy resources which don’t come to end with its uses are known as renewable resources.
In terms of renewable energy sources, it doesn’t depend upon how much solar energy was collected yesterday.
The sunlight will available to us every day and we are in a position to convert this light energy. So, with no doubt, you can say, solar energy is a renewable source of energy.
A nonrenewable energy resource will come to end with its uses. The examples of nonrenewable resources are crude oil, coal etc.
This renewable energy technology is broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar. It’s solely depending on how to capture or convert it into solar power.
Active solar system and passive solar energy system
Both active solar heating systems and passive solar heating systems are used to obtained electricity. So, what is the basic difference between an active and passive solar heating system?
Active solar techniques
This system includes the use of photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power and solar water heating to harness the energy.
Active solar heating systems are most cost-effective in cold climates with good solar resources.
Heating your home with an active solar energy system can significantly reduce your fuel bills in the winter.
Selecting the appropriate system depends on factors such as the site, design, and heating needs of your house.
The performance of the active solar system depends on effective sitting, system design, installation and durability of the components.
Passive solar techniques
This system includes orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favourable thermal mass or light-dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.
The goal of passive solar heating systems is to capture the sun’s heat within the building’s elements. So, this heat energy can be released when the sun energy is not available.
In the passive solar technique, south facing glass and thermal mass are used to absorb, store, and distribute heat.
There are several different approaches to implementing those elements.
In indirect gain, thermal mass is located between the sun and the living space. The thermal mass absorbs the sunlight that strikes it and transfers it to the living space by conduction.
At direct gain, South facing glass admits solar energy into the house. The direct gain system utilizes 60-75% of the sun energy striking the windows.
What are solar panels and types of solar panels?
Solar panels are the devices that convert sunlight into electricity. A solar panel is a combination of a solar cell, and module. A solar array is a combination solar module.
Solar Cell is a semiconductor device that converts sunlight into direct current (DC)
A Module consists of PV cell circuits sealed in an environmentally protective laminate
The solar panel is a collection of solar or photovoltaic cells, which is used to generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect.
A PV array is the complete power-generating unit, consisting of any number of PV modules and panels
Most solar panels are made up using crystalline silicon solar cells and wear out extremely slow.
The most common application of solar panels is solar water heating systems
Different Types of Solar Panels
There are a few different types of solar panels available in the market. These are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, amorphous silicon, and hybrid.
Monocrystalline solar panels use thin wafers from single silicon crystals. The monocrystalline solar panels may be the most expensive, but they will also produce the most electricity.
Polycrystalline panels use offcuts of different silicon crystals, melted down into a mould, to form their semiconductor.
The Polycrystalline panels seem to have a bluer look due to the various crystal pieces reflecting the light.
Thin Film or Amorphous Panel
Thin film panels use an incredibly thin layer of amorphous silicon as their semiconductor. The thin film panels are a cheaper than crystalline panels to make and install.
However, thin film panels are not yet as efficient as crystalline panels.
Hybrid panels are essentially PV panels with heat exchangers underneath.
This technology could be a great addition to any home in the future. The solar panels will produce more electricity because they will not overheat and the house will benefit from free hot water too.
Hybrid panels are more expensive comparing to any other form of solar panels.
What is Solar Photovoltaic Cell
A photovoltaic cell or solar PV cell is a specialized semiconductor diode that converts visible light into direct current. Photovoltaic cells are an integral part of solar power systems.
In a PV cell, flat pieces of semiconductor material, called positive (or P-type) and negative (or N-type) are placed together.
The physical boundary in between these semiconductor materials is called the P-N junction. This junction can be exposed to visible light, IR, or UV.
When radiation strikes the P-N junction, a voltage difference is produced between the P type and N type materials.
Electrodes connected to the semiconductor layers allow current to be drawn from the solar device.
The use of PV cells and batteries for the generation of usable electrical energy is known as photovoltaics.
Overall the solar engineering process for creating solar photovoltaics is simple. Hence, PV systems have relatively long lifetimes, anywhere from 10 to 30 years.
Types of Solar Power Plants
Different solar engineering technologies can be applied to cope up the increasing demand for power. So, let’s see what are the different solar plants are in working.
Solar Photovoltaic Plants
Photovoltaic plants consist of photovoltaic cells which work based on the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic solar power cells convert sunlight directly into electricity.
In this system, a thin layer of silicone encased between a sheet of glass and a polymer resin. When exposed to sunlight electrons in the semiconducting material become energized. These electrons are then able to flow through the material generating a direct current (DC).
The key components of Photovoltaic Plants are Solar panels or photovoltaic cells, Solar tracking system, Voltage regulator and investors, MPPT (maximum performance point tracking), and Batteries.
Solar thermal energy plants
Solar thermal energy plants use solar concentrators. This type of power plant work on concentrating the solar radiation on a receiver and using this heat received to generate super-heated steam which then drives the turbine to generate electricity.
What are the Solar energy advantages and disadvantages
Though this sustainable energy has many advantages, solar power has some disadvantages also. Let’s go in detail,
Advantages of Solar Energy
- This is the renewable energy source. It means you can produce electricity as long as sunshine. So, it can be used to harness power even in remote locations.
- It does not pollute the air by releasing harmful greenhouse gases. So, the risk of damage to the environment is reduced.
- Solar power system requires very less maintenance once installed. Hence you can add more solar panels according to your power need.
- Solar energy will overcome your energy consuming activities like water heating, lighting etc. So, it will cut your electricity bill considerably.
- As it can be installed on the rooftops, no extra space is required. Solar panels are easy to install and does not require high technical skills.
- A photovoltaic power system doesn’t require water to produce electricity. Hence it will conserve water for other uses, mainly drinking and agriculture.
- There are multiple other advantages such as home heating, powering automobiles, cooking, agriculture pump, and many more.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
- The initial costs of solar panels are high. So, installing solar power system on a rooftop is still a dream for many people. But it will save your money in the long run.
- Solar energy efficiency is all about the amount of space it takes to generate the energy. Due to this factor, not too many companies or houses have installed solar panels.
- When you move to new place, it will be difficult to take your solar power system with you. In case you choose to take the solar panel with you, you have to take care of the de-installation and re-installation cost.
- The generation of power is mostly affected at night and during foggy seasons. So, it means when the sun is not shining, there is no generation of energy. Investing in backup systems increases the overall cost of installing a solar panel.
- Disposing of semiconductor materials can have severe impacts on the environment. Hence, due care must have to take at disposal if required.
Future of solar energy in India
The solar energy potential in India is immense due to its convenient location near the Equator. India receives nearly 3000 hours of sunshine every year, which is equivalent to 5000 trillion kWh of energy.
Rajasthan and Gujarat are the regions with maximum solar energy potential.
The Indian Government has rolled out various policies and subsidy schemes to encourage the growth of the Solar Industry.
The World Bank has already approved a $625 million loan that will support the Government of India’s Grid-Connected Rooftop Solar program.
Generating clean renewable electricity is crucial for India where nearly 300 million people live without access to electricity.
India is already planning to develop one of the largest solar parks in the world at Karnataka. So, besides clean electricity, it will also create thousands of jobs in the solar industry.
Besides this information, you are suggested to read something more from below engineering books
To get the more details about the topic, I further recommended reading
- Solar Photovoltaic Technology and Systems
- Energy resources
- Principles of Thermal Collection and Storage
- Photovoltaics: Design and Installation Manual
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