Solar Energy Introduction
New developments in solar technologies are now being fuelled by a number
of factors such as the increased numbers of low voltage, energy efficient
gadgets, mobile PCs and communicators as well as the rising demand for
solar powered hot water heating. The low maintenance of many solar technologies
lends itself to remote applications. In less economically developed nations
low tech devices such as solar ovens are much in demand. On the industrial
scale there are a growing number of large grid tied solar arrays and the
prospect of the world’s first giant solar tower.
Although traditionally expensive, the hard wearing, zero maintenance nature
of PV already powers the global satellite communication infrastructure,
navigation lighting buoys and weather data logging instrumentation. Economies
of scale promise to bring such technology within the pocket of the individual
consumer and encourage the integration of PV systems into buildings.
The simple fact that none of the PV manufacturing processes have yet delivered
energy conversion rates much beyond 20%, whilst solar thermal technologies
can offer 8O% and beyond continues to encourage the deployment of solar
Solar Energy is used to provide buildings with space heating and water
heating. Roof mounted solar water heaters are proving valuable additions
to buildings. Certain countries are experiencing very high consumer uptake
levels- Israel now has solar hot water heaters on 50% of its buildings.
These figures indicate how swiftly such technologies can capture an aware
and committed market.
Using simple technology, solar ovens can be built to either cook small
amounts quickly or larger amounts more slowly. In arid zones which tend
to be sunny, such technologies can help conserve precious remnants of
woodland that are being destroyed due to fuel wood scavenging for cooking.
Solar Thermal Electricity
Using solar concentrators, high temperatures can be gained which can be
converted into electricity via an increasing range of devices such as
heat exchangers, steam turbines and sterling engines.
Additional to the better known solar energy technologies an interesting
concept known as a Solar Towers is making an entry into the Renewable
Hybrid Solar Lighting
A new emerging concept known as hybrid solar lighting may offer an effective
way of routing daylight deep into buildings. Using parabolic reflectors,
direct sunlight can be concentrated on a smaller mirror which after removing
most of the Infra red component (which can be extracted as electricity),
reflects a very focused beam of visible light on to the end of a optical
fibre bundle. This cooled beam of concentrated full spectrum natural light
can then be routed into the interior of buildings for illumination. The
hybrid design allows this additional lighting source to be mixed with
back up lighting to create a dynamic system that always maximises the
amount of natural light fed into the building.