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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
sunlight
and convert it into their own food. When we eat those plants,
the energy is transferred into our own body. When
sunlight
warms the
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
in them. Mud piled over the fossils to keep them from
decaying. When humans burn those fossil fuels, the
solar energy
that the
plants stored is released.

Humans dont 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 suns 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
using
steam turbines
. Power towers have a container at the top of it to
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 Californias Mojave
desert. Solar One was able to convert sunlight into 10 megawatts. 10
megawatts is enough to power
10,000 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.

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 cars
and
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
peoples 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 todays 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 dont 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 Tholstrups 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.