The generation of electricity using solar energy is the process of converting sunlight either directly or indirectly. Solar power has allegedly been around since the mid-1800s when a Frenchman used a parabolic trough was used to produce steam for the first solar engine. Commercial solar power plants began to show up in the 1980s. Solar power has continued to be developed and streamlined through the hard work of inventors using green technology info, until it has become what it is today.
The direct conversion of sunlight into electricity uses photo-voltaic (PV). Solar radiation is captured and semiconductors are used to convert it into direct current electricity. Solar panels and solar cells containing photovoltaic material are both used in this conversion process. Some of the more popular materials for this use include various types of silicon as well as cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide. This process is a renewable and sustainable source of energy which is used in over one hundred different countries around the world.
Concentrated Solar Power
Indirectly converting solar radiation into electricity is done through the use of concentrated solar power systems which use mirrors or lenses. A large area of sunlight from the lenses or mirrors is focused into a small beam, resulting in the production of heat which is used to drive a generator of electrical power. One form of concentrating solar power uses fields of moveable reflectors which are arranged to pull the largest possible amount of sunlight, sending the beams onto a solar power tower which is arranged in a focal line. The heat is sent into a working fluid (sea water) located in the tower which is heated and used as an energy source.
This type of solar power capture may also be arranged in the form of a dish that looks similar to a satellite dish, functioning in a comparable manner. Other less popular options are also sometimes installed. Practical uses of concentrated solar power include heating and/or cooling for industrial purposes, or to create an actual power plant.
Current Use of Solar Power
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants have been growing rapidly in recent years. Spain has the largest amount of CSP use in the world, followed by the United States (which has two hybrid plants of fossil-CSP). India also has a large PV solar park. As the global market for solar power continues, places such as North Africa, the Middle East, and China are becoming interested in the use of solar power as a sustainable energy source.
Using the renewable energy of the sun allows for a sustainable resource of power for years to come. Whether through large solar power energy plants or the use of small units which provide solar power to individual “green” homes, harnessing the power of the sun is becoming more of a necessity in order to plan for the future of our planet.