Solar Power

What is solar power?

Solar power is different forms of energy that can be produced that is generated from the sun. There are various different methods of creating this energy which are through several systems for individual requirements. Solar power was discovered when scientists realised that plants required the sun to live and this was through the process of photosynthesis. The plants, when perished eventually turned into fossil fuels which is mostly what we use today to produce our electricity. Scientists thought that there may be a way to use the sun to produce energy such as electricity for ourselves and this is when they discovered solar power. There are three main systems the produce energy from the sun and these are the photovoltaic effect, in architecture and heating for our water pipes.

What is the photovoltaic effect?

The photovoltaic effect is the use of photo cells which then change the light from the sun into electricity. This was used initially for simple objects such as powering up calculators. Photovoltaic cells are currently being used as roof tiles for some buildings. The photovoltaic cells cover the roof of a house and capture the sunlight that is beaming on the roof and traps it in the cells which then converts it into electricity. Each cell consists of two layers which are usually silicon and one layer is charged positive and one negative. This then cause the electrons to become free and they move between the two layers which produce a small electrical current.

How is solar power used in architecture?

Solar power is used in architecture for energy such as heating a building and maintaining that heating all year round. A building will be faced where ever it is likely to see most of the sun throughout the day (in the case of the British south facing) and they use large glass windows so that the heat from the sun is absorbed through these windows. Even in the winter this is extremely beneficial as the small amount of sunlight in short days of winter is absorbed by the windows and will maintain the heating in the building. In the summer, the architects arrange the building so that it does not get too hot in the winter by planting trees and building balconies around the area to shade the building at certain points.

How does solar power produce water heating?

Water heating is the use of the sun to warm up water without the use of electricity. This is done by painting the pipes that contain the water in black, and then insulating the pipes with an insulator that effectively works as a greenhouse around the pipes and once the water is heated by the sun, the insulation around the pipes maintains the heat of the water.

Where is solar energy used?

Currently solar power is used in more of the western industrialised countries as currently it is fairly expensive and there is a higher demand for electricity. In some areas of North America, there is already a run of competition with the utility systems because of solar power. The biggest use of solar energy though, is in space. Solar energy is used on the space crafts they send up into space to provide electricity some of the facilities on the craft.

How much solar energy is generated and what is the current output in the UK?

Each square meter of a roof that is south facing in the UK receives about 1000 kilowatt hours of solar radiation per year. With a photovoltaic cell which with lots of cells that is called an array, each array can produce 2000 peak watts and this will enable a house about 1500 kilowatt hours per year which is said to be about half of the average households needs of electricity every year.

Why has solar energy production not increased in the UK?

Firstly solar energy production has not increased in the UK because it is still fairly expensive although the government is offering grants of up to fifty percent to help with the finances of purchasing and installing solar energy. The government in the UK would like to see 6000 roofs fitted with photovoltaic roof tiles by 2005.

People in the UK also do not receive as much sun as other countries and so therefore believe that solar energy would not be as effective as it can potentially be. This is a myth though, because although there is a lot of cloud in Britain, the sun that does reach through the clouds it is then converted into more energy as is it insulted by the clouds. It does not necessarily need to be sunny throughout the whole day for
solar energy to be effective, as long as there is enough sun to break through the clouds which will then produce energy.