Solar

Things To Know:  The most abundant source of energy aside from cold fusion (theoretical atomic chain reaction) that we will ever have is of course solar energy. Unfortunately, many people associate solar energy only with solar cells.  Photovoltaic cells siphon excited electrons off organic or inorganic elements exposed to the sun’s radiation.  If you live on the international space station and price is no object, they are great.  Unfortunately, many cells still aren’t cost effective enough for mere earth dwellers.  However, new developments in the cost and efficiency of solar cells will ensure their mass use in only a few more years.  The most practical solar energy at this time can be found in devices that harness the heat value of the sun.  Below are some descriptions and web addresses relating to all technologies mentioned above.

Solar Cell Technology:  For those who can afford them now, and for those who aren’t opposed to a long term repayment period, an excellent list of solar cell manufacturers from the following web site: www.solarbuzz.com/companylistings/unitedstates

Incidentally, those who live in a sunny climate may want to weigh the costs and consider solar roofing considering the fact that even an inexpensive tile roof will never feature a repayment schedule.  Check out www.ips-solar.com or www.unisolar.com if you’re interested!

Stirling Engine:  Over one hundred years ago a fellow in Scotland by the name of Stirling invented a fantastic engine, which he conveniently named after himself.  The technical description of the stirling engine is that of a closed cycle regenerative gas engine.  This device creates mechanical energy from any source of heat, no combustion necessary.  Boeing has decided to assist in the commercial development of this product and it will soon be possible to see hundreds of large mirrored satellite dish looking things that are hooked up to the electricity grid instead of the television.  The following are some web sites that will further explain the concept and business side of things: www.sesusa.org, and www.stirlingenergy.com/default.asp

Solar Tower:  Every once in a while a new concept comes along that really makes sense.  The Germans get the credit for designing an impressive new concept dubbed the solar tower.  The solar tower is basically an air baker that produces electricity by feeding super pressurized air through turbines mounted in a tower on top of the air baker. The air baker is of course energized by the sun’s heat.  Incidentally, the claim being made is that this will be the first source of solar energy that is able to continuously produce energy. The first facility of this design will be operating by 2005.  An area with adequate solar radiation will be able to erect a single tower and produce between 700 and 800 Gwh per year from one unit with a footprint encompassing less than 40 square kilometers of surface area.  Further information can be found at the following web site: www.sbp.de/en/fla/index.html

Concentrating Devices:  The concentration devices work on roughly the same collection concept as the solar tower above, but the average person could install one on the roof or patio with no problem.  Collection devices essentially transfer heat energy from the sun to hot water.  This hot water is normally used to heat houses or even more hot water for bathing.  There are some devices that can produce steam and thus electricity.  These devices are among the most practical and affordable for the average homeowner.  More information can be found at the following web site: www.industrialsolartech.com

Please advise the 2020 Institute if you feel we’ve left out any must see statistics or new technologies in this area or if you feel we’ve inadvertently misrepresented anything on this page.