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Harnessing Power from the Sun summary

Energy is the thing that keeps us moving and alive. If there was no energy, people would not be able to cook, there would be no cars and it would be absolutely no sound or light. Energy has the power to be transferred and converted into different forms. A form of energy is solar energy. Special technology called solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. Solar energy is energy that is produced by the sun and it can be converted into electricity.

Fossil fuels are the most used energy to this day. Cars, trucks and buses run on fossil fuels. Oil, natural gas and coal are examples of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels like gasoline are burned to make energy that is use by cars, trucks and buses. Other fossil fuels like coal are burned in furnaces to make heat.

Solar energy is also able to be used without any devices to convert sunlight into electricity. Solar energy will never run out and it does not contribute to global warming. Solar energy reaches Earth in the forms of light and heat. In one minute, more solar energy reaches the Earth than humans use in one whole year!

Lots of alternative energy sources are a product of the sun, such as biomass, wind and fossil fuels. During photosynthesis, plants capture

sunlightand convert it into their own food. When we eat those plants,

the energy is transferred into our own body. When

air, the hot air rises. When the air rises, cool air flows underneath it. That causes wind. Millions of years ago, when plants died, they still had some

solar energy

decaying. When humans burn those fossil fuels, the plants stored is released.

solar energythat the

the plants stored is released. ​ solar energy ​ that the ​ sunlight ​ warms the

sunlightwarms the

in them. Mud piled over the fossils to keep them from

​ solar energy ​ that the ​ sunlight ​ warms the ​ in them. Mud piled

Humans don’t need special devices to use solar energy. When you use solar energy without a device, it is called passive energy. When you DO use a device, it is called active energy. A way to use passive solar energy is to open the blinds and let the light in. A way to use active solar energy is to use a solar panel to convert sunlight into electricity. Overhangs outside of houses can interfere with passive solar energy in the summer. In summer when the sun is high in the sky, the sun’s rays just go to the ground because they cannot get under the overhang, whereas in the winter the sun is low and the sunlight can get under the overhangs easily.

There are many different devices you can use to harness energy from the sun. You can use solar collectors and flat- plate collectors in addition to solar panels. Flat-plate collectors are used to heat water for laundry and showers. This is how they work: Cold or cool water enters the collector through a pipe. The water fills the pipes that are in the collector. There is a glass layer covering the collector to let the light in. A dark colored plate under the pipes absorbs the sunlight. The water is then warmed and pumped around a building to where it is needed.

Just like fossil fuels, solar energy needs power plants too! The three main types of power plants are troughs, power towers and dish-engine systems. Power towers and troughs are connected to a generating station. Generating stations are stations where electricity is produced


store heat. The first power tower was built by the U.S. Department of energy. It was named Solar One and it was built in California’s Mojave desert. Solar One was able to convert sunlight into 10 megawatts. 10 megawatts is enough to power10,000 homes!Solar One was redesigned in 1922. It was renamed Solar Two. The designers replaced the water in the power tower with melted salt which stores heat better.

the power tower with melted salt which stores heat better. ​ steam turbines ​ . Power

steam turbines. Power towers have a container at the top of it to

Solar cells make electricity on the spot. They generate sunlight directly into electricity. Solar cells will never die out because they have no moving parts. As long as the sun is still shining, the solar cells will make electricity. Solar cells are made of a material called silicon. Silicon is an element that occurs naturally on Earth. The beauty of solar energy is it does not need to be connected to power lines. Solar panels can be rigged up on the roofs of houses to produce electricity. Solar panels can be used to power road signs, satellites and space vehicles. In very remote parts of Australia, the Australian government has set up a program called Bushlight. Solar panels have replaced diesel generators (machines that burn diesel fuel like gasoline to make power.) with solar panels. People who live in these remote areas are able to run devices that need electricity.

When you use solar panels, you can make money at the same time! If your solar panel produces extra energy that your home or building does not make use of, you can sell it to the power grid. The power grid is a connection of power lines that rest on top of large metal supporters. Solar arrays are connected to the power grid and they are called PV power grids. PV power plants are created quickly and solar panels can be added or taken away easily, depending on how much electricity is needed. PV power plants produce a type of electricity which is called direct current (DC). The type of electricity produced by wall sockets inside homes is called alternating current (AC). A special device called an inverter is used to change electricity from DC form to AC form.

Scientists are developing even more developed solar technology such as peel-and-stick PV and PV roof shingles. These new technologies are made of different materials than previous PV cells. People in the future may use peel-and-stick PV to charge cell phones, install PV roof shingles

and buy PV coatings for their windows. The only downside to this amazing technology is that it is not as efficient as regular solar cells. It is much less expensive though.

Buildings that use solar energy can have a combination of usage types. The home can use both passive and active solar energy. Each year, there are two main solar competitions across the world. The first is the North American Solar Challenge. Teams that are made up of college and university students have the chance to build solar powered carsand race the car from Texas, U.S.A. to Alberta, Canada. The second competition is the World Solar Challenge that takes place in Australia. In this challenge, teams from around the world race their solar powered cars across the country.

There is a special design that people can use to build passive solar homes which is called Earthship. The design is meant for the climate of New Mexico in the U.S.A. but the design can be modified for colder climates. Earthship is made of natural and recycled materials. The walls of Earthship are made of old tires and dirt. The tires absorb heat during the day and let it out at night. To make sure the building does not overheat in the hot summers of New Mexico, the southward-facing window are angled, so direct sunlight does not enter.

Humans have used solar energy for thousands of years, to grow crops and provide heat and light. The sun was such an important part in people’s lives, so they worshiped it like a god. Ancient people such as the Inca and the Aztec built temples for the sun and offered it gifts. People like the Anasazi built homes that were southward facing so that they received the most sunlight in the winter, but were shaded by cliffs in the

summer. Ancient people like the Greeks used passive solar energy for heating and light. They made the discovery that if they faced their homes to the south, they would catch the most sunlight. In ancient Rome, there was a law that each home had to have access to sunlight!

In the 1700s, scientists discovered that they could use devices like lenses and mirrors to concentrate sunlight. In 1700, the first solar furnace was built by French scientist Antoine La Voisier. A solar furnace is a device that is used to melt metals. Horace de Saussure was a Swiss naturalist who built the first solar collector in 1767. It was made of glass. In the late 1800s, the first solar cells were invented, but they were made of a different material than today’s solar cells. They did not generate much electricity, so people did not pay very much attention to them. Other solar technologies were popular though: American Clarence Kemp invented the first solar water heater in 1891.

In the 1700s and 1800s, there was a big change in Europe and North America. This big change was called the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was a time when people used machinery to do more work. Cars, planes and trains were invented and people needed a lot more energy to run these new technologies. Coal provided a cheap and easy energy supply. Because it was a fossil fuel, it provided more energy than wind, water and solar power. Soon, fossil fuels were the main source of energy.

In the 1900s, people all over the world began using oil and natural gas to power cars and trucks and to heat their homes. Industries used lots of oil as well. Large amounts of oil was discovered in the Middle East in countries like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Other countries realized that it

was dangerous to depend on other countries for the main energy source. During the 1973 oil crisis, the Middle Easterns refused to sell oil to other countries. All around the world, there was lots of demand for oil, but there was not enough to supply all the countries that wanted the oil.

Solar technology is not able to convert every single bit of sunlight that reaches the earth into electricity. This is because sunlight is spread out all over the planet and not all places on Earth have solar panels. Solar technology is becoming much more developed though. Solar cells in the 1970s only converted about 6% of solar energy into electricity. The cells we have now can convert more that 20% of the solar energy into electricity.

In some parts of the world, the government is encouraging the people to use solar technology. The government is offering rebates to the people who buy solar panels and water heaters. There are many different types of solar technology you can install onto your home: There are PV roof shingles, PV windows, solar water heaters and solar panels. You can also choose to have a passive solar home. These types of homes don’t cost any more to build than regular homes. If you have a type of solar technology on your house, you can educate other people about solar technology and spread the word!

In 1839, a French scientist name Edmond Becquerel discovers the photovoltaic effect.

In 1876, the first solar cells are created but they do not produce enough electricity to power devices

In 1891, Clarence Kemp invents the first solar water heater which makes heating water much more efficient.

In 1954, the Bell Laboratories create the first photovoltaic cell which is produces enough electricity to power a device.

In 1981, Stephen R. Ptacek flies a solar powered airplane.

In 1982, Hans Tholstrup builds and drives the first solar powered carr across Australia.

In 1087, Hans Tholstrup’s solar powered car inspires the World Solar Challenge.

In 1993, the first PV power plant is connected to the power grid.

In 1996, Solar One is redesigned and named Solar Two.

In 1998, an American scientist Subhendu Guha invents solar shingles.

In 2005, solar cells become more efficient.