5 Ways Solar Energy Is Changing The World
By Kara Masterson
Fossils fuels are currently the dominant energy source, but they are finite and diminishing. The sun, by contrast, is inexhaustible. The sun produces in an hour about as much energy as humans use in a year. Researchers have been devising ways to take advantage of that.
Solar panels are the best-known form of solar technology, and they have existed for decades. At first, they were prohibitively expensive, but solar power now costs about 1/150 as much as it did in the 1970s. During those same 40-odd years, solar installations have increased by a staggering 115,000-fold. As solar panels have proliferated, so have the companies that make and install them. Most any company that has to do with Renewable Energy Resources should be able to help you install these types of resources.
Tesla grid batteries
Another challenge that has long bedeviled proponents of solar power is storage. The sun does not always shine, and people need a way to store solar power so they could use it at night or during bad weather. In 2015, Tesla unveiled grid batteries designed to store large amounts of solar power. Collectively called “Tesla Energy,” the batteries can be unobtrusively mounted to a wall and then connected to a solar panel. When the solar panel collects more energy than can be used, it sends the excess to the battery.
One advantage that solar power has recently developed is portability. Unlike fossil fuels, solar power does not need a massive power plant. Solar kits consisting of small solar panels and batteries can supply at least some energy needs. Such kits are particularly useful in developing countries and disaster zones. Relief workers in such areas can use the solar kits to power lights and charge cell phones. In at least one case, a solar relief kit powered a 3-D printer used to make medical equipment at a fraction of the usual cost.Solar Desalination
Desalination technology is used to remove salt from water and make it drinkable. Scientists have devised a machine that runs on solar power and not only pulls salt out of water but uses the sun’s UV rays to disinfect it. Such devices can range in size from large plants to portable gadgets.
Satellites are solar-powered. The scientists who devised them knew they needed a reliable source to keep the satellites working, for they could not bring them down to refuel them. They used the same technology seen in solar panels to power the satellites, and those satellites can operate for decades.
Overall, researchers have been trying to devise other applications for solar power. The Solar Impulse is the world’s first solar plane, and its makers are currently circumnavigating the globe. The spacecraft Juno that recently visited Jupiter is also solar-powered. Solar power will doubtless prove to have many other applications.
Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.