The earthly race for energy is infinite. Just think of the various devices in your own home that consume energy of one kind or another. Multiply that by the billions to understand world’s demand for energy. Solar energy, gift of god, forms a natural renewable energy source that has blessed us since the very beginning.
Where would we be without that wonder up in the sky called the sun? Architecture, agriculture and transport are some mighty bastions of civilization that dream of harnessing solar energy. Come to think of it, all energy humanity possesses derives from the sun except geothermal and water based energy.
The Chinese and the Greeks align buildings towards the sun to capture warmth. Different heights for different rows of crops in agriculture capture the essence of the sun’s rays. A solar powered automobile has been in the planning for decades.
The common sight of solar powered panels on roofs is a reassuring sight! Anything that reflects nature is welcoming nowadays because we have realized the horrors of science and technology and the nightmares they generate. Solar technologies are developing rather rapidly nowadays with solar thermals heating water, space, cooling space too. Artificial photosynthesis is achieved through solar energy. Water treatment plants too often survive on that same solar energy. Commercial and industrial applications use process heat by concentration technology through dishes, troughs and reflectors.
Have you heard of solar cookers? Solar power may be converted to electricity just like we have hydroelectricity too. Chemical processes can be driven through solar energy into fuels that can be stored and transported. The variety of solar applications has no ending.
It all originated with US inventor Frank Shuman, who introduced the solar energy harvesting idea, starting in 1897. In astronomical terms, the earth receives 174 petawatts of the solar goodness but 30% gets reflected into space. Where does the rest go? Oceans, land and clouds of course.
In our later posts, we will discuss more about how to make best use of solar energy.