Most people have heard of solar power, and many have even tried generating their own electricity using solar panels or wind turbines. However, most people do not know how solar power is actually generated, which allows for some interesting facts and figures about solar wind energy to be shared.
Solar Power Generation 101
To understand how solar wind energy works, it is first important to know how solar power is generated in the first place. When sunlight hits the surface of the Earth, it is usually not at a single point but rather spreads out across the whole globe. When this sunlight is converted into energy, it is called solar radiation. The amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth at any given moment is called the solar flux, and it ranges from 100 to 400 watts per square metre (W/m2). The total energy that the Earth receives from the Sun in a year is called the solar constant and it is about 1.366 × 10^26 Joules (J). The amount of energy that a single solar panel is capable of producing is around 3.6 to 15.6 kwH (kilowatt hours), depending on the size.
The main problem with solar power generation is figuring out where to put the solar panels. Just about any surface will do, but the best place for solar panels is a south-facing roof or a pavement (if you have a lot of space). If you want to generate more electricity than what your roof or pavement can provide, consider getting a solar power tower which can double or triple your output. A solar tower accumulates and focuses sunlight with mirrors before feeding it into a pipeline where it is absorbed by a heat-transfer fluid. This fluid is then used to generate steam which turns a turbine generator that produces electricity.
The Rise Of Solar Wind Energy
Thanks to the efforts of numerous dedicated individuals and organizations, solar power in all its forms has experienced an incredible surge in popularity over the past decade. In 2007, only 0.75% of the world’s power generation came from solar power plants, but that figure has risen to 4.85% as of 2017.
Even though the cost of generating electricity from solar power has been coming down, it is still very expensive compared to traditional power generation. To make a profit from solar power, energy companies must sell the electricity at very high prices, providing a significant incentive for investors to develop affordable alternative energy sources.
One of the more recent and innovative solar-powered developments to hit the market is solar wind energy. As the name would suggest, solar wind energy combines the benefits of solar power with the wind. The combination of these two seemingly contradictory sources of energy gives birth to a new and exciting industry. Let’s take a quick look at how solar wind energy works.
How Does Solar Wind Energy Work?
A typical solar-powered generator uses photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic cells are often made of silicon or polycrystalline silicon, which are abundant and relatively cheap in nature. In some cases, the electricity generated by the PV cells is stored in a battery before being fed into the grid. This allows the user to generate electricity 24/7 regardless of the weather.
While photovoltaic cells are necessary for solar power generation, they are not sufficient. To make the most out of this type of energy, a device called a concentrator is needed to focus the sunlight into a small area where a lot of PV cells are located. The main purpose of a concentrator is to increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the PV cells and to reduce the amount of energy loss due to diffraction or scattering (i.e. when the sunlight is focused using a lens or mirror).
A good example of a concentrator is a solar tower which uses some form of heliostat technology (usually either heliostats or reflectors) to focus sunlight. The advantage of a solar tower is that it can concentrate sunlight from a large area onto a single point. This allows for a large number of PV cells to be used, resulting in more electricity being generated per unit area than would be the case if several smaller dishes were used in parallel. As a result, the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) decreases sharply as the size of the tower increases.
Why Have Solar Towers Come Into Their Own?
Thanks to the pioneering work of numerous individuals and organizations, the costs of concentrating solar power have come down to such an extent that it is now possible to generate electricity more affordably. As a result, the cost-per-kWh of electricity generated from solar towers has declined by 80% in the last decade, which has led to a surge in interest in this particular type of alternative energy source. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the price of electricity generated by a solar tower with a capacity of 100 kW has now reached a record low of 4.77 cents/kWh, as of October 2017.
The most prominent and well-known solar tower manufacturer is the French company SolarPower Europe which produces the Solarguard line of solar towers. A 300 kW Solarguard solar tower, for example, sells for around £25,000 (approx. $31,600 at the time of writing) which is a considerable sum for an entire home. However, for individuals who are looking to generate their own power on a smaller scale, solar towers are more than a viable option – they are a necessity.
Getting Started With Solar Power
To get started with solar power generation, all you need is a clear space on your roof or a piece of pavement and some PV cells. If you live in a sunny location, the next step is to contact your local electricity provider and see what types of subsidies they offer for solar power installations. Many electricity providers will provide lucrative discounts for homeowners who generate their own electricity using solar panels.
In order to save money in the long term, consider buying a good quality solar system which will generate energy 24/7 for up to 10 years before you need to replace it. When it comes to investing in alternative energy, nothing beats the robustness of solar power and the potential to generate electricity at no cost to yourself. With the world’s energy problems becoming more and more apparent, the need for alternative energy sources is paramount.