Larger Solar Angles: Concentrated Solar Energy in Smaller Areas of Earth’s Surface

People have been wanting to harness the energy from the sun for thousands of years. In 1823 Spanish explorer Nicholas Luhan discovered that the rays of the sun were concentrated by the magnificiently beautiful, yet mysterious planet we now call ‘Venus’. He dubbed the planet ‘the twelfth heaven’ because of its remarkable resemblance to our home planet. Since then, many have tried and continue to try to discover how to utilize this free energy source to their advantage. One of the latest technologies that marries solar power with earth-friendly living is solar energy collecting systems built on the principle of the dish.’

Why Use Dishes To Collect Solar Energy?

Anyone who has ever tried to grow their own vegetables probably knows the frustrating truth that you must be close to the soil in order to harvest the delicious produce. With crops grown using traditional methods, 70% of the food is thrown away as unusable because it was either not collected at the right time or not harvested at all due to bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances. With the development of the solar garden, all of that is changed. With this method of food production, as much as 95% efficiency can be achieved. Even more impressively, depending on the size of the dish and how many solar panels you have, you can generate enough power for an entire household.

The first modern demonstration of a large-scale solar garden was built in 1978 in California’s Imperial Valley. Dubbed the ‘Inca Sun Temple’, it consisted of a 60-foot by 60-foot dish and was able to generate 18 kilowatts of electricity – more than enough to supply the daily needs of an entire family. In the same year, a larger system with a 100-foot dish in New York City was also put into operation. This is currently the world’s largest solar-powered electrical system. In both cases, the goal was to produce as much biomass and/or electricity as possible with the utmost efficiency.

How Does It Work?

In the case of the Inca Sun Temple, during the day the sun heats up the soil below the solar panels and moisture is drawn from the air by the plants’ transpiration. As the sun begins to set, the temperature of the soil drops dramatically and plant life starts to draw carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into carbohydrates – food for the night’s cricket population.

Nighttime is a delicate time in terms of the environment, as you want to avoid having a negative impact on the little creatures that you’re trying to help. The best time to gather solar power is from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., as the sun’s rays are at their least concentrated and therefore its effects are at their most positive. The solution? Use a solar tracker to follow the sun’s movements and keep the solar panels focused directly on the source of the energy – be it the sun or a heat lamp – throughout the day. The panels should be inspected frequently for signs of overheating or malfunctioning, which could result in the loss of power generation if not corrected immediately. Checking the temperature of the soil is also important, as it can give you an indication of how efficiently the system is working overall. In order to do this, simply dig a hole in front of the panel and listen for the sound it makes as the sun’s rays shine through. If you hear splashing, then the soil is too hot and you must shade the panel or replace it – or at least reposition it so that it is no longer directly exposed to the sun’s rays.

In addition to gathering energy at the right time of day and avoiding any impact on the environment, the use of solar dishes allows for more effective use of space than traditional power plants. When installed in an orientation that captures the maximum amount of sunlight, solar dishes can provide a steady source of energy to be used for whatever purposes the user desires. Of course, the beauty of this technology is that it allows for more space than a standard rooftop or garden-based system, as it does not occupy a ton of floor area. It also means that it is less likely to be damaged either by wild animals or humans in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. Since its inception, the Inca Sun Temple design has been adopted by many different organizations as a sustainable power source.

Different Applications

The Inca Sun Temple was not only used for energy production, it also housed a small library and a greenhouse for gardening and academic purposes. It was later converted into an Inn and restaurant, still utilizing the original green design and energy-saving appliances.

This sort of setup is perfect for academic or heritage-related buildings, as it allows for more reading and writing in the presence of the sun than any other time of day. The traditional gardens and farm-to-table cuisine that it houses also make it a perfect educational tool for students interested in sustainable living or those who are passionate about cooking.

Another wonderful application for the Inca Sun Temple is to be used as an outdoor concert and movie screen. Due to its sturdy construction and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, it is completely climate-controlled and highly insulative. This means it can be used to host a variety of events even in inclement conditions, as it prevents the sort of damage that would otherwise be caused by rain or snow. The large size of the screen also makes it suitable for use in outdoor classrooms and other areas where it is difficult to provide adequate resources for a group of students.

The benefits of traditional power plants are that they are often more efficient in their generation of electricity than solar gardens and can be placed in more remote or disadvantageous areas. However, the advantages of the solar garden are that it is more sustainable and allows for food production – important in places where resources are scarce. One additional benefit of the Inca Sun Temple is that it provides a beautiful focal point for any garden or rooftop regardless of space constraints, as it is capable of drawing visitors and nature lovers alike. Its energy production is also more constant and predictable than that of a traditional plant, meaning it does not require as much energy to operate it reliably. This is important when trying to achieve energy independence or if you are trying to minimize your carbon footprint. One of the most beautiful things about the Inca Sun Temple is how it marries form and function; its size is almost as incredible as its achievements in energy generation.

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