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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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  • Number of pages: 2

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Renewable Energy: Harnessing the Sun's Power

The Sun's energy is one of the most abundant renewable resources on earth and the most powerful thing in our solar system which is why it is one of the most widely used forms of renewable energy.  Radiation from the sun is capable of producing heat or electricity.  There are two major ways to collect solar power.  The first method is by heating water in black tubes to create heat, steam, or power.  The second uses solar cells to create sparks of electricity.  The Suns energy can be used in power plants, residence, or even in small objects like calculators or watches.

The most common use of solar energy is flat plate collectors.  Flat plate collectors consist of a blackened metal plate covered by glass.  The metal plate heats up from the sun light and transfers that heat to a carrier fluid, usually water or air.  The flat plate collector is usually used to heat water or air temperature in a home.  If you need higher temperatures you can use a focused or concentrated collector.  A concentrated collector concentrates a wide area of sunlight into a small blackened receiver that transfers the energy to a carrier fluid.  Since a large area of sunlight is focused on the small area the intensity of the sunlight is greatly increased which also increases the temperature of the receiver fluid.  These higher temperatures can be used for high temperature research or to heat a boiler which creates steam for a steam turbine power plant.  

Solar radiation can also be turned straight into power through solar cells.  Solar cells work because when sunlight hits a junction between a metal and semi conductor, that is usually silicone, it creates a spark of electricity.  One solar cell usually only creates about two watts of electricity per cell. Solar cells are mainly used only in small objects like watches and calculators because of cost purposes. Solar cells can also be arranged into a large group called an array.  These solar arrays can be used as a power station  to distribute to industrial and residential areas.  A large solar power plant can produce over 100 mega watts of electricity per hour.  Solar cells could also be grouped together in smaller arrays called solar panels which can be installed by homeowners to meet their power needs.  These solar panels can also be used in places where other power sources are unavailable or costly.  For instance, solar panels are widely used to power satellites and the international space station.  A solar panel usually puts out 20 watts per square foot.  

The Sun's energy can also be used on a smaller scale.  For instance, solar energy can be used to cook food in a solar oven which reflects and focuses sunlight onto food to cook it.  It can  be used to make sea salt by evaporating the sea water from the salt.  The Sun's energy can also be used to heat a well insulated house if it has a big window or many small windows facing south.  This works because the windows facing south will collect the Sun's energy and it will turn into heat inside the house allowing the insulation to trap the heat inside.  By using the sun to heat your house like this, you can reduce or eliminate the need for fuels to heat your house.  The windows that let in heat also let in light so that you do not need to use energy to light your house during the day.

Since solar energy is one of the nations fastest growing industries there has been an increase in the needs of jobs in the solar field.  The four groups of solar jobs are manufacturing, system design, project development, and installation and operations.  System designers make plans for solar panels. The solar panels are build by manufacturers and then installed on site by the installers.  The engineers in the solar power industry usually enter with a bachelors degree but sometimes are required to have a doctorate or masters degree while engineering technicians only need an associates degree or certificate from a community college or technical school.  The different forms of engineers make from $78,000 to 93,000 thousand per year while technicians make $50,000 per year.  Software developers make $90,000 per year.  Other jobs available include welding and soldering workers, paint machine setters, and computer controlled machine operators.  Welding and soldering, computer controlled machine tool operators, and paint machine setters make $25,000 to $32,000 per year.

I learned that solar power can be collected as heat or energy through power cells, flat plate collectors, or concentrated collectors.  I also learned that solar power is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation making it a good field of work to enter.  Since it is one of the fastest growing industries, there is an increase in the need of workers with that expertise.  Finally, I learned that solar power really is a good way to heat your house or produce electricity to power it.

The future for solar power is great.  I see that in the future there will be solar powered cars which would reduce pollution and the consumption of fossil fuels. Solar powered cars would also help the economy because people wouldn't have to buy fuel for there cars. I also think that there will be more houses and business run completely by solar power as it becomes more popular in the future.

The potential for solar energy is still amazing since about 200,000 times the worlds total electric capacity is received by earth from the sun every day.  This means that more energy is received from the sun in one hour than is used by the earth in a whole year.  In fact, the whole world's energy needs could be produced by covering one percent or less of the earths surface in solar cells and farms.  This would be costly but possible since the silicone needed for solar cells to produce energy is one of the most abundant elements on earth.  Solar panels, farms, and other forms of solar power will continue to become more common as the need for renewable energy increases.  As we use more and more of our nonrenewable resources, the need to use solar panels and cells will increase.  So, think about and look to solar energy next time you are looking to help save the environment or lower your power bill.

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