Solar Power: A Future in Sustainable Energy
Solar power is the energy source of the future. It’s the conversion of energy emitted by sunlight into usable electricity. The energy source is highly sustainable and indefinitely renewable. In other words, solar power does not contribute to the depletion of our natural resources, nor does it emit greenhouse gasses. It is indefinitely renewable, due to the fact that we are alive so long as the sun is alive too. Thus, we can never run out of solar power.
However, even though solar power is one of the best options in energy, there are still some major limitations that need to be worked out. The biggest limitation of solar power is the ability to produce it’d anytime we want, for example during the nighttime or when it’s cloudy outside. The issue here is that we need to find a good way to store the energy for later use, and to be able to utilise it in a different location which has less sunlight to be converted. Scientists want to be able to take solar power from areas with a high concentration of sunlight, and take it to areas with a lower concentration of sunlight.
There are two technologies used by solar power plants in order to convert energy from sunlight into electricity.
Photovoltaic systems use solar panels to directly convert sunlight energy into electricity. The solar panels are either mounted into the ground, or installed on the roof.
- Concentrated Solar Power
This method uses a few more steps to convert sunlight into electricity. The energy isn’t directly converted into electricity, but instead uses heat and water in order to power a device that will generate it. The sunlight is channeled into a smaller area over a body of water using mirrors and lenses. The water heats up due to the sunlight energy, and then steam is produced. The steam is then used to power a steam turbine, which is connected to a generator.
Researchers from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have brought us one step closer to being able to convert and release solar energy whenever we want. The technology they’ve published is a method that stores solar power in a chemical liquid storage, which acts as a molecular solar thermal system. This system allows the solar power to be stored, transported, and used at a later date. The energy is stored in the bonds of a liquid’s chemicals as chemical energy, where it can then be released on demand. The energy is released whilst also keeping the storage system intact and available for reuse.