Humanity has always been faced with the need for more power than we are already using. It seems that as the potentials we discover give us more, we inevitably develop a craving for more power. Ultimately it has not always been just about discovering and exploiting others, or even better sources of power. In looking at our options and prospects, scientists have come to see that some sources of energy or power are indeed better than others in many ways. In fact, the differences have and are still an intricate part of why so much is done to understand how we can harness and use more alternate sources of power and do so better.
Green Power; The trending source and better alternative
There are indeed a large number of alternatives, but in this century more than in any other, the trend has tilted sharply towards green power maximization and for many good reasons. Who ever thought (before we came to know how important it could be in power delivery) that the sun held such tremendous potentials? Generations have come and gone, many probably had a hint, a spark of insight to the possibilities of getting energy from the sun. But it has taken more than just hindsight to bring to light and present as a reality the wonders of what we have come to know as solar energy today.
Another wonderful importance of the sun
When the sun rises from the east and its rays speed across the side of the globe that is experiencing daylight at the time, it brings with it more than just light with which we can see. Much more than that it gives us the opportunity and makes it possible for us to generate even more light – to say the least – for the dark hours. That light however is not the main thing. The power that is transformed to and stored to produce “secondary light” is the main thing. That is what we call solar power. Before, the idea was unimaginable but we have, with time and commitment from several scientists much more than an idea. We now have first-hand experience of one of the most outstanding creations. The possibilities seem to be limitless. There are so many advantages of solar energy and other green power sources which are more clearly seen when compared with alternate sources.
Advantages of Solar Energy
One of the advantages of solar energy is the basic fact that it is renewable. And that is also another acronym for it. That is to say so long as the sun continues to shine, you can be certain that this wonderful source of power will always be available. Other sources of power, like coal for example, could become scare or run out of supply at one time or the other as they are exploited more and more. Solar power is not depleted when used. we simply cannot over use it or run it out. You can also understand the value of solar power by considering the fact that it is one energy source which promises to deliver power through infinite generations without fail.
There is also a very large environmental cost we have to pay when we get energy from non-renewable sources. Pollution in all its forms is a serious part of that cost and is probably the greatest reason why there is so much spent to find better ways of harnessing and using green power. Solar power has no specific environmental cost, whether in terms of pollution or otherwise. The method by which it is processed and used is so clean, environmentalist have fallen in love with it and desperately advocate for it to be developed and used more.
In addition to the aforementioned advantages of solar energy, it is a flexible source of energy. Solar power can be used in a variety of ways unlike normal energy sources. With solar energy, it is possible to generate electricity or heat and these are done using two different methods. To generate electricity, photovoltaics or solar panels are used. Solar power output therefore refers to the amount of energy that is translated to electricity. Solar thermal on the other hand is used to generate heat from solar power. It is also interesting to know that there are several interesting ways in which solar systems can be embedded or incorporated into materials our houses are built with.
One such great options is making transparent solar panels that can be used as window frames. That way the power generating system is not a separate plant but an intricate part of the house itself. What is really amazing about using Solar energy is the fact that tremendous possibilities are discovered every other day and it only keeps getting better.
Amongst the advantages of solar energy is its minimal maintenance cost required in running or using solar energy, or indeed any other form of renewable energy. The cost of setting up the solar panels or plants, which is the initial cost is almost all you have to worry about once it is up and running. That means you get to save a lot of money in the long run which could otherwise have been spent paying bills. Solar panel installation cost is relatively low especially considering the fact that it is a one- time issue.
Using Solar energy and making it more adaptable
Now here’s where it begins to get really interesting. Renewable energy can actually be used as a source of income if you decide to commercialize it. And that is very possible. All you need to do is increase the solar panel coverage, which increases its capacity to receive and even store energy. When you have a large plant for solar power, the supply is larger. Solar panel installation cost also depends on the size of installation. As you will expect, the larger the installation or plant, the more expensive it will be. Also note that more complex and advanced methods like transparent panels used as window panes have the tendency of significantly increasing solar panel installation cost.
That brings us to the point that solar panels are designed not only to receive but to keep excess power which is not immediately used as electricity and this is one of the formidable advantages of solar energy. Now here is a simple tour on how it works.
Solar panels are a composition of cells spread out as a board. These cells are photovoltaic and they are responsible for converting the simple sunlight to what electricians call DC or Direct current. Since after the war ended between direct and alternating current and which was better and safer for society, alternating current is largely accepted in many communities. Solar panels have to convert direct current to alternating current by making use of an inverter. This power is then sent to appliances while the utility meter completes the last part of the process which is transferred back whatever was not used to the electrical grid. That is the simplicity of the science.
With regards to solar panel output, here is a little sneaky fact that would help you get around the information that follows. Solar panels work opposite to how electric light bulbs work. The former uses light to generate electricity and heat while the latter uses electricity to generate light. That sounds tricky but it is very simple to grasp. Just an inverse way of functioning for both.
Solar panels come in different wattages and sizes and the sizes determine the solar panel output. That is one major consideration to make as far as solar panel installation cost is concerned. Wattages differ but a common one for high end panel should have an average of 345 watts and should measure approximately 61 by 41 inches. So we can make calculations of smaller or larger panels based on this foundation. Solar panels have several cells made of semi-conductive materials. One very common choice amongst these materials is silicon. When the cells are exposed to sunlight the ensuing process is simple; sun rays transfer the protons contained in them to the cells where they come in contact with electrons in the solar panels. Normally those electrons are idle until the protons come along. At the time both meet, electrons in the panels or cells are charged so that they become conduction electrons. With enough energy, electrons become free and carry an electric charge through the available circuit to where it will be used. Again that is as basic as it gets with solar panel output and process.
The power saving possibility and functionality of Solar panels
One thing many people have come to consider a major limitation to using solar energy is its reliance on the sun’s light rays which will hardly be available during the seasons like winter. However the case seems to have been blown a little out of proportion considering that many who hold this claim dearly like to imply there cannot be any solar energy generated in such seasons.
Far from the truth! Every time we experience daylight, we can be sure it is provided by the sun’s rays and that has enough potential to generate electricity. However the intensity of light and sun rays have a directly proportional relationship with the quantity of energy that will be generated for electricity. The conclusion of the matter is that you should not feel installing a solar panel will be a waste in sun-low seasons. Solar panels are built and design to store energy from the sun in order to supply energy when it is needed. Solar panel output increases or decreases with the intensity of sunlight, but with an adequate size of solar panel (which of course means higher solar panel installation cost), there should be adequate power stored up for sun-low moments.
Another source of pure energy or green power is the wind. This is an outstandingly clean source of power with several advantages over non green energy sources. The wind, which is natural occurring and cannot be depleted is what is used to generate electricity here. The process is simple and like all other forms or sources of green power, there are prospects and a promising future for it. Wind turbines are used to generate electricity. There are many of them that have been and are being set up around the world recently.
There are two main uses of wind energy. It could be used to generate mechanical energy or electrical energy. In the days when this technology was just discovered and people began to use it, they exploited just the mechanical part of. Hence it was meant for grinding grains or pumping water, just basic stuff like that. However other modifications have taken place which worked to ensure that this energy gotten from the wind and transformed to mechanical power is again converted to electricity using generators. This is the level of functionality those of us who live in the 21st century can easily relate with. We are very much about electricity and as a matter of fact, most of us cannot even imagine life without electricity for a day or two, talk less of a month or more. The most basic things we do in life such as washing plates and cooking to more complex activities like operating large machines and engines demand so much electricity. Wind energy would therefore prove to be of little use to us if we had just the advantage of using it to grind or pump water. Who even does that these days? Once electricity can be generated, water can be transmitted to houses and machines which use electricity would grind grain more effectively. It appears therefore that the electricity supply function of wind energy and turbines is so important that the mechanical power it generates could be ignored altogether.
How it Works
So this is how the process goes. There are two or three blades that make a fan on wind turbines. The force of the wind causes them to turn and in the process they generate mechanical energy. In order to make it more useful, a generator is used to transform this mechanical energy to electricity which can then be distributed to homes for use. When you consider how a fan works, it is easier to understand how wind turbines work. All you need to do is consider that their functionality is opposite. That is to say, fans use electricity to generate wind while wind turbines on the other hand use wind energy to generate electricity. So it’s a similar but inverse operation. There are also both Horizontal and vertical axis designs for wind turbine propeller blades. However modern turbines are designed more in the vertical axis model.
Wind energy also has its strengths and weaknesses as a source of power, but like other green power sources, it’s advantages and potentials outweigh its limitations by far.
Benefits of Wind Energy
To begin with, wind is something which cannot be depleted with continuous use.
Once turbines are built, there will be need for needs only to be a few maintenance checks with little or no cost. Installations are able to operate for years before they can be replaced with others.
It is a clean source of energy. The effects of using wind energy on the environment not only makes the atmosphere safer but also greatly helps contain the negative impact already made on the environment.
The shortcomings of harnessing and using wind energy
It has a large installation cost which is very often too much for individual consumption.
Though the atmospheric impact is good enough, there is some worry about it affecting birds. Species like bats have often died by being trapped to such installations. This is being considered and greatly worked on though.
Transporting the electricity generated, which is the ultimate reason for the installation of wind turbines is another issue. Usually wind turbine plants are located far away from residential areas where the demand is high. This increases expenses as other materials will have to be purchased and systems put in place for the electricity to be used.
Finally, wind turbines make a lot of noise, and that is one reason why (as the previous point states) they cannot be installed very close to cities or settlements.
Home Wind Turbine Installation
Installing a home Wind turbine is possible though there are some basic requirements which not too many people will be able to attain. One necessity for home wind turbine installation is a large piece of land, at least an acre. It is a good thing for those who are looking to generate electricity for home use. However, note that home wind turbine installation does not necessarily demand an area with high wind flow.
There are a range of prices, sizes and power generation capabilities for home wind turbine. So you will have to be familiar with details and take them into consideration in order to get the best out of your home wind turbine installation.
Geothermal Power; making use of the heat within the earth
Geothermal power is the name given to heat that proceeds from within the earth. This heat is a great source of renewable energy because it will always be there. From a few meters below the earth’s surface to very deep where one can find magma, there are varying heat capacities which are also quite stable. The deeper within the earth you go, the more heat is available. Geothermal heat pumps are the instruments used to conduct heat energy from within the earth, transforming different forms of energy that can be used to heat homes or water. The system by which geothermal energy is processed to supply heat consist of the heat pump, a system for delivering air, a system of pipes and an air exchanger which are all buried just below the earth surface and close enough to the house or settlement.
In colder seasons like winter, the heat is extracted from the exchanger and taken to the indoor air delivery system. In warmer or hotter seasons, the reverse of this process takes place. The indoor heat is removed from indoors and carried out by heat pumps to be used for heating water. When it comes to generating electricity using geothermal power, the process is a little more complicated because at this point it involves making use of a generator which is powered by steam produced by heat from within the earth. Pipes which transport water below the earth surface bring the water to a point where it is heated to boiling point. Steam is them produced and channeled to generators. It also involves more expenses especially if it has to be done on large scale. Establishing a geothermal plant is no small issue. There are basically three types of geothermal plants. These are binary cycle, flash steam and dry steam with the second (flash steam) being the most common of all.
For dry steam plants, steam is gotten directly from geothermal reservoirs and used to power the rotation of generator turbines. The very first of this kind was made in Italy, 1904. With flash steam plants, water is collected from deep within the earth and used to generate steam for the same purpose of driving generator turbines. When each round of water turned–to-steam cools off and becomes water again, it is taken back underground by the same channel through which it came for the process to be repeated. Many more installations today are making use of this model. Then with Binary cycle power plants, the heat that is obtain from geothermally heated water is transferred to another liquid which then vaporizes and is used to fuel the turbine generator. In this case, there is a peculiar advantage, which is the fact that the water does not need to be as hot as in other cases. Moderately hot water is added to another liquid which more easily vaporizes with less heat. The liquid gives off steam to power the generator. The generator then converts this heat energy to electricity which can be supplied to homes and cities depending on the supply available.
Advantages of using Geothermal Power
One important advantage of geothermal power is that it is inexpensive to use. The bulk of expense goes to installation of the of the system, after which there is free energy to be obtained from the heat that the earth produces. Maintenance cost is minimal like in all green power sources.
It is a great way to reduce a nation’s expenses on alternative sources of power.
There is a large potential capacity as far as geothermal energy is concerned. Estimated power for efficient power plants goes up to as much as 2 Terawatts of electricity supply. Like solar panel output, it is able to supply sufficient energy to several people and even cities.
Unlike the case with solar and wind, the output for geothermal power plants is stable, hence accurate predictions and expectations for the future can be made more securely.
It is also very accessible since all around the globe, it could be gotten just a few feet below the earth’s surface where temperatures are stable at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Power of Tidal waves
Many people who go surfing and even those who like sea and ocean related activities are quite familiar with waves. They are as beautiful to watch as they could sometimes be dangerous to engage or use for activities like surfing. Beyond all that there is a powerful use for tidal waves and the energy (tidal energy) they generate. It possesses great potentials to generate electricity. Tidal energy, being a green power source is of course renewable, thus always available for use. Now the interesting thing about tidal waves is that they are very predictable, even years in advance. So users can determine or estimate more specifically the amount of energy capable of being generated over a period of time.
Tidal energy can either be captured by using tidal turbines or tidal barrages. Tidal turbines are windmill -like underwater instruments used to trap tidal energy. The blades used are strong and short which when moved by the waves, transmit energy to electricity generators. Alternatively, tidal barrages are special dams. They are constructed to utilize variations in tides (high and low tides) and in order for them to be very effective, they are built across estuaries or bays. The process is simple to understand. At high tides, water that comes in through the dam is trapped so that it can later be released to flow through turbines so that they rotate and produce energy which is transferred to generators.
Importance of Tidal Energy
Like all green power sources, the first and probably most important advantage of tidal energy is the fact that it is renewable. The rise and fall of tides which creates waves and produces tidal energy is relatively more uniform than wind and solar energy.
Of course it is also a clean source of energy and very environmentally friendly.
The main disadvantage is the high cost (upfront) which is required to establish and use tidal energy. If cost is measured in Megawatts per hour, Tidal energy will cost almost three times more than other forms of green power.
Also environmentalist have presented the case that aquatic life may be in great danger as a result of using tidal energy. Fishes and other marine creatures could be killed by tidal power plants especially when they come in contact with the turbines.