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30 Facts About Solar Energy
The facts about solar energy are truly about the most common facts of life.
Just try to conceive about Earth without the sun. Impossible!
There are many interesting facts that describe its nature and uses. Knowing more about solar power will help you in making your choices about how to use it.
Solar energy facts?
Here are just some of them.
Facts about solar energy—sources and uses
Solar energy is a term for describing a range of methods for obtaining energy from the sun. Many people immediately think about solar panels when hearing
but wind, biomass and hydro power are all forms of solar energy. Wind develops through highs and lows in temperature. Wind drives waves. Rainfall, created by sun-warmed evaporated water feeds the rivers that are sources for hydro power.
You cannot get away from it. Basking in the sun? Drying your clothes on the clothes line? Sailing your boat on choppy waters. You’re dealing with solar energy.
Solar energy is successfully being used for cooking, cooling, heating, communications, driving space craft, lighting and many more purposes.
Even fossil fuels are forms of stored solar energy. Coal, oil and gas formed hundreds of millions of years ago from decomposed plant matter. Plant matter that grew by aid of the sun!
Facts about solar energy—it’s not a new fad
The human use of solar energy is not new. The
history of solar energy
is rich. Building methods have for many centuries taken account of the sun’s movements in optimizing its warmth and light.
Many ancient civilizations worshiped the sun as the cause of everything. Ancient and modern North- and South-American Indian tribes worshiped the sun. The ancient Egyptians worshiped their sun god Ra.
In the late 15th century Leonardo Da Vinci already conceived of an industrial use of solar power by employing concave mirrors to heat water.
Facts about solar energy—our civilization depends on it
Solar energy has become of increasing importance to industrially developed countries as the use of fossil fuels has become problematic, with its effects of global warming and pollution. Fossil fuel reserves are limited where renewable energy sources, by definition, are not.
Such facts of solar energy mean that solar energy is now also attractive to developing countries with remote isolated areas. This is because the possibilities of stand-alone solar appliances negate the need for expensive grid infrastructure.
As renewable energy technology develops and fossil fuel prices increase solar energy becomes more affordable. And there are no crippling, rising importation costs of coal, oil or gas.
Facts about solar energy—the sunny figures
The sun is 109 times bigger than the Earth. The sun’s radius being 696,000km and the Earth’s radius 6, 376km.
The sun’s average surface temperature is 5700 C. The Earth’s average temperature is 20 C. And we are worrying about global warming of some 3C!
The sun is about 150 million km from the Earth and is aged about 4.5 billion years.
Solar radiation reaches a unit of space near the Earth’s orbit at a rate of 1,366 W/m² (Watt per square metre), as measured upon a surface normal (at a right angle) to the Sun. This number is the "solar constant". Of this energy, about 19% is absorbed by the atmosphere, and clouds reflect a further 35% of the total solar energy. Therefore solar energy received a sea level is much less. Its peak power is generally accepted to be 1,020 W/m².
The average received solar power on land is lower still. In North America for example the average power of the solar radiation is roughly between 125 and 375 W/m², that is between 3 and 9 kWh per m² per day.
Solar cells have about a 15% efficiency rate in converting that energy. Therefore
solar panels deliver only 19 to 56 W/m² or 0.45-1.35 kWh/m²/day of that average power. But that does not make solar energy inefficient!
The average solar energy falling on Australia is equivalent to about 15.000 (fifteen thousand!) times the nation’s present total energy use. At 15% conversion rate that is still more than 2000 times the present need, providing we could capture it all.
Facts about solar energy—the Earthy figures
In recent years manufacturing costs of photovoltaic cells has dropped by 3-5% per year while government subsidies have increased. While to some such facts about solar energy seem trivial, this makes solar energy an ever-more affordable energy source.
The worldwide production of solar cells increased by 60% in 2004. However, the material these cells are made from, silicon, has been in short supply since then and has hampered production.
The energy output of a 1 KW solar energy unit is roughly equivalent to the burning of 170 pounds of coal and 300 pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.
At the end of 2005 total global peak power of installed solar panels was about 5,300 MW.
Facts about solar energy—locations
The world's largest solar electric system was claimed by Germany. The 10 megawatt Bavaria Solarpark covers 25 hectares (62 acres) with 57,600 photovoltaic panels. But since the 1st of September of 2006 it's in...
The new Arnstein solar electric plant, also in Bavaria, pips the Bavaria Solarpark by 2 MW, and is now claimed to be the largest. It provides 12MW of energy to about 3,500 households from some 1,400 movable solar panels.
The Bavarians can clearly do more than yodel and drink beer.
However it is in the Mojave Desert in North America that houses the world's largest solar power plant. It covers 1000 acres (4 km²) of solar reflectors. An astonishing ninety percent of the world's currently commercially produced solar power is produced by it.
Africa’s Sahara desert, assuming 15% efficient solar cells, could generate more than 450 tarawatt (TW) per year. Current annual global energy consumption, including fossil and renewable sources is about 13 TW.
About half of worldwide production of solar panels is consumed by Japan. Their purpose is mostly for grid connected residential applications.
Israel is building a 100Mw solar power plant. It will supply more than 200,000 Israelis with electricity. There are further plans for an even more huge 500 Mw solar power plant, making Israel a solar energy leader.
Proving that solar power is not just for warm climates, the British clad Manchester’s tallest building, the CIS Tower in solar panels. In 2005 it began feeding energy into their national energy grid.
Facts about solar energy—effects on people
Solar energy is the Holy Grail of the transport industry. The 3021 km Australian Darwin to Adelaide annual car race for solar-powered vehicles seeks to promote its research. It attracts international competition and is making some headway. In the first race, in 1987 the competitors average speed was 67 km/hr. By 2005 it was 103 km/hr! Speed may not be among the most important facts of solar energy but the solar transport industry’s gains are. Car exhausts of course, are a leading cause of global warming.
The human ecological footprint is big. In some countries bigger than in others. There are around 2 billion world citizens without any electricity at all. To them the facts about solar energy are that they cannot flick a switch to bring it on and are often steeped in poverty.
By contrast America accounts for over a quarter of world energy consumption with only 5% of the global population.
Facts about solar energy—the future
Perhaps the future is here now. Shell has predicted that 50% of the world's energy will come from renewable sources by 2040. Shell will also join in a massive renewable energy development project supported by the UAE. Several industrial heavyweights will join them: British Petroleum, Total, and Occidental Petroleum Corp, General Electric, Rolls Royce, Fiat and Mitsubishi.
The facts about solar energy are not just about technology however. The facts of life include that the adoption of solar energy alone is not going to bring about a sustainable world. Without a greater warmth of positive human interaction it will still be a cold, and unsustainable, world.
Yes, do plug into solar power and build that solar dwelling. But also do what you can today to change attitudes towards one another and towards the environment and you have will have created the future already.
Are these enough facts about solar energy for you? Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You could fill a book with them.
How about this resource, the 2007 Solar Energy Complete Guide to Solar Power and Photovoltaics, Practical Information on Heating, Lighting, and Concentrating, Energy Department Research (Two CD-ROM Set)