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While there is still some debate about the positives and negatives associated with the use of solar energy on a large scale, solar power has already begun to make a real contribution to the energy resources in the United States. Solar panel energy systems offer a degree of reliability which cannot be denied and which is unmatched by many of the other energy sourcing technologies used in the production of power today.

There are several ways in which to harness the power of the sun. In fact, many of the alternative energy sources that we use today are connected with the power of the sun, as the sun has an impact on tidal, hydroelectric, wind and biofuel energies. That being said, solar panels are the most direct source of solar power. Here are a few of the more interesting solar panel facts.

Most solar power systems collect heat from the sun in order to produce electricity. These systems collect heat that is generated by sunlight hitting a solar panel. Some systems use lenses or mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays in order to generate additional heat.

Such systems convert light to electricity through what is known as Photovoltaic Effect (PE). PE was actually discovered by a Frenchman by the name of Alexandre Becquerel. Becquerel was a physicist who confirmed the PE process in 1839.

Solar panels are not the least expensive thing to purchase; however, they are becoming more affordable as more and more people are interested in alternative energy sources, driving production of solar panels to rise and associated costs to drop.

Once solar cells are installed, they require only minimal maintenance and result in free energy in the years to come. Though they will eventually wear out, the average panel made today will last for decades into the future, and the durability and efficiency of solar panels only increases as more technological advances are made.

One of the most important solar panel facts for most people is the idea that solar energy is not at all harmful for the environment. Solar power is extremely clean, generating no pollution while it operates. Cadmium, which is used in solar cell production, does cause some concerns regarding toxicity; however, more efficient and less harmful methods of producing solar power generators will eventually be developed.

Solar power is very reliable and predictable, given that the sun rises every day. It can have intermittent power generation interruptions, of course, as there will be no sun light at night and only limited light on rainy and cloudy days. Even with these intermittency issues, it is still one of the most reliable sources of alternative energy available, which is one of the most critical solar panel facts that drive consumers to purchase and use solar energy systems.

 

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Hydroelectric energy is among the oldest forms of natural, alternative energy sources, with dams having been built extensively during the 1930s and 1940s around the world. Because it has been around for awhile, many people are aware of its existence; however, most don’t really understand the methods by which water is used to generate electricity.

how does hydroelectric energy work

how does hydroelectric energy work

So how does hydroelectric energy work?  Well, in actuality, all electricity created in power plants – whether hydro or coal driven power plants – is produced through very similar means. It is just the source power which varies. These plants use turbines or propeller-shaped mechanisms to turn electrical generators. It is the motor of the generator that actually produces electricity which is then disseminated for immediate use or stored for later use.

In traditional power plants, steam is used to force turbine blades to rotate. In hydro power plants,
flowing water takes the place of steam, but the end result is the same – turbines rotate, forcing the generator to turn, generating electricity which can be used to power any number of items, including everything from light switches in a home or business to electrical cars.

The traditional method of fueling hydropower stations is by damming large, fast-flowing rivers. So how does hydroelectric energy work from dammed rivers? It is a somewhat complex process, as not any spot along a river will do.

The prime locations for hydroelectric power plants are those in which fast-flowing rivers meet with elevated land attributes. In other words, the best place to build a hydropower plant is at a high altitude where there is a natural, quick drop in water flow in the river. This drop in elevation provides the gravitational effects necessary to increase the force of water profoundly. By increasing the force of the water, the natural change in elevation results in faster turning turbines which in turn leads to greater electricity produced through generators found in the power station.

Dams are built to trap water, forcing it to go through the power station before it can proceed on downriver. During peak power hours, when more energy is needed, some hydropower stations are built in such a manner that they actually force water through the power station more than once, by cycling it through reservoirs and past turbines and generators again before it is released back into the river. This recycling process allows power stations to meet increased needs for electricity during the night and other peak periods in electricity usage.

 


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advantages of hydroelectric energy

Throughout the years, fossil fuels have polluted the environment and now that the effects of the abuse are visible for all to see. Concern about finding a definite solution to the problem has been raised.

Today, technological innovations are being developed with one thing in mind: new, cheap, safe, healthy, and renewable energy.  All over the world, countries strive to come up with new technologies that will enable mankind to produce more energy without imposing too much damage on the environment, and in this way, managing to control global warming so that the threat pending over the entire world disappears.

Hydroelectric energy is one of the alternate forms of energy that technology has allowed man to produce; this is a form of energy that offers various advantages to man and to the environment. Here are some of the most important advantages of hydroelectric energy.

  • No oil, uranium, or any other type of fuel is necessitary to produce electricity.  This allows for a more stable and economical supply of electricity.  As well, it lessens the impact on the environment, as no excessive pollution is required in order to generate electricity, which is not the case when using other fuels, especially oil, in the production of electricity.
  • Hydroelectric energy can be produced without generating toxic or radioactive wastes. Environmental impact is minimal, and mostly limited to the construction of the hydroelectric power stations.
  • Due to the fact that hydroelectric plants and power stations are mostly automated, there is no need for increased human labor.  This reduces the costs of hydroelectricity considerably, thus making it more affordable for more people all around the world.
  • Hydroelectric power stations are versatile in that they can be built in whatever size, depending on the river or stream where it is going to be operated.  Hydroelectric power stations can power anything from a small home all the way up to a major city.
  • Hydroelectric energy is renewable, much like wind energy and solar energy, as it does not depend on finite resources such as gas, coal, or oil for production, it provides society with the possibility of always being able to have ample energy available at economical prices.
  • Hydroelectric power states are long-lasting, certainly much more than other kind of power stations.  A hydroelectric station, for instance, can be fully operational for up to one hundred years, maybe even more. Nuclear power plants, on the other hand, are usually operational for up to forty years.

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Solar energy derives power from the sun. Once a solar energy system is put in place, it is able to convert the light and heat of the sun’s rays into electrical power which will never be influenced by the changing prices seen in contemporary energy markets. Additionally, solar power is a clean and reliable alternative energy source which poses no threat to the environment or public health.

There are several difference forms of solar energy systems that are used today. These include passive solar design, solar heat collectors, solar thermal concentrating systems, and finally, solar panels.

Passive Solar Design

The concept behind passive solar design is the idea that residential and commercial buildings can be lighted and heated by the rays of the sun without any intervening solar energy system being installed. A building which is constructed properly can require less mechanical or electrical energy to light, heat, cool and ventilate.

Houses and commercial buildings with the right passive solar design will always face south, have the majority of windows places on the south side of the building, and will have other design features that tap into solar energy, like skylights. They additionally put to use things like awnings, shade trees, and wind-barrier hedgerows or tree lines in order to reduce the dependence on other energy sources for cooling the home or insulating it to maintain a good internal temperature, regardless of the season.

Heat Collectors

Solar heat collectors can be installed on roofs to catch solar energy and use that power to heat and cool the inside of a building or to heat water for a home or business. Most solar heat collectors are flat boxes which are black on the outside in order to attract more sunlight.

Inside the system, there is a collection of pipes which hold a water and alcohol mixture. That mixture is heated by the sun and then transferred into the building through a series of other pipes. These can run through walls, ceilings and floors, as well as through radiators and water heating systems, to supply heat to various parts of the home or business.

Thermal Concentrating Systems

Solar thermal concentrating systems are primarily used for industrial applications, as they use mirrors and lenses to generate extremely high temperatures. Solar energy works through these systems by creating huge amounts of power which can be stored in energy cells or batteries for later use.

Solar Panels

The most common way that solar energy works is through the use of solar panels or photovoltaics, which are solar cells that collect the energy of the sun and convert it to electricity. That electricity can be used as a sole source of power for a home or business or can be used to offset electrical grid energy obtained through power lines.

 

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Hydroelectric Energy Hydroelectric power works by harnessing the natural energy that is present in flowing water. Gravity drives water downstream and with a bit of mechanical intervention on the part of humans, that flowing water can be used to generate energy.

Hydroelectric power is produced when flowing water meets the blades of a man made turbine. The water forces the turbine blades to cycle. A generator attached to the blades collects energy as the turbine rotates. That energy is siphoned into electrical lines or stored in power cells.

 

Hydro Power Uses

One of the hydroelectric power facts of which most people are not aware is that the energy generated through this process can actually be used for any number of purposes, including the supplementation of power for existing electrical grids that supply large cities and small towns.  Hydroelectricity can also be used to supplement a home power supply or to generate electricity for an individual manufacturing plant or business.

Hydro Generator Types

Another of the most interesting hydroelectric power facts is that the generation of power form water sources can actually occur in several ways. The general populous is most familiar with the use of huge dams to produce hydroelectricity; however, power can actually be collected and distributed through the use of micro generators, as is the case with tidal energy where generators are built into structures like bridges and in small hydro power stations that built along local streams and rivers.

The Benefits of Hydroelectric Power

Hydroelectric power is actually the source of about a fifth of today’s global energy. Hydroelectricity is a renewable source of energy that is clean and therefore does not dump pollutants into the environment. There is no traditional fuel source required to harness the power of water. In fact, water itself is the fuel that drives the generation of power in hydro turbine generator systems.

The Drawbacks of Hydropower Stations

Although the process of generating electricity through hydro power stations does not result in contamination of the environment, the construction of large hydroelectrical power plants does result in environmental changes and can lead to disruption of the ecosystem in which a power plant is built.

For example, the biggest source of hydroelectric energy is generated through the use of huge dams built on major rivers. This causes not only disruption to the river ecosystem in the immediate vicinity of the dam but also affects the animal, plant and even human life found down river.

 

 

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Wow, so today’s news about Solyndra was a shocker!  One of the top solar energy companies! A company that raised over $1B in funding (including $200m in Government loans) over the last 3-4 years is effectively gone, RIFing their entire work force of 1100 people.

solar panels facts

A friend of mine that works in the industry (no names for obvious reasons) told me about 18 months ago that they were all “smoke & mirrors” meaning that they had a good marketing story but no real substance behind it – I don’t know if he was right but today’s news has to make you think.  True or not they were connected enough to have President Obama visit and commit a significant amount of the countries money to them…

Interesting that they site competition as the main cause of their demise, it seems to me that solar panels being cheaper to manufacture in Asia than in Milpitas, California really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise and quite predictable.

I really hope that this is not a classic case of incompetent management, living large, drawing fat pay checks whilst driving the company into the ground; or even worse a criminal executive team…I guess only time will tell.

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Tidal energy captures the power of tidal currents in the ocean through the use of turbines that drive generators. The rotation of the Earth and the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon all influence the daily ebb and flow of the tides.

Predictability

For the most part, the strength, height, frequency and duration of the tides are predictable factors. This predictability plays a central role in our ability to use tidal forces as a source of energy and is definitely one of the pros of this alternative energy source.

Limited Harnessing

While the tides themselves are predictable, the strong tides that are necessary for driving turbine generators are somewhat less common. In order to practically and affordably build the hydroelectric energy stations necessary for harnessing power from the tides would require the strategic construction of dams and power plant facilities in tidal basins and high tide areas around the globe.

Ecological Impact

There are positive and negative aspects to the use of hydroelectric energy in terms of ecology. It is a natural, alternative energy source that can decrease dependence on other more harmful power generation methods.

There is still much work to be done within the hydro engineering field to reduce the negative effects of damming, turbines, and other aspects of the tidal power production process on the ecosystems of high tide areas in which these power stations are constructed. The advancements which have been made have significantly decreased the negative effects of tidal energy systems.

Appearance

Not only do hydroelectric energy generation stations impact the functioning of the ecosystem, they can also change the way tidal basins and other high tide coastal regions look. Those areas in which dams would be constructed to enclose turbine generators and direct the flow of ocean water through those turbines would of course be the most drastically altered.

It is important to keep in mind that advancements in hydro engineering have made it possible to harness tidal power with less detrimental affects to both the ecology and the natural appearance of coast regions. Tidal energy generators can actually be built into existing structures like bridges.

Cost Effectiveness

The power that can be harnessed from even those high tide areas of the world is limited and these limitations make tidal energy production a relatively less cost effective method of generating power, particularly in terms of large power grids like those which provide the necessary power for cities. That being said, the predictability of the tidal energy source makes it an alternative that should be considered and one which can be integrated effectively into a larger power grid that draws energy from multiple sources.

 

 

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A sometimes ignored alternative energy source is wave power as well as use of normal water to create electricity. The fundamental reasoning behind hydroelectric energy might best be defined as making use of water flow and drainage to turn any turbine, and this switching action produces electrical power. It’s a little more intricate than that however; it plainly may be put as the force of moving water switching into mechanical effort, mechanical power to electric power. These are some interesting details about this renewable power supply.

You’ll find issues with using hydroelectricity. Several claim that that poses a problem regarding fish and water plants on both walls of the dam. As the circulation of water may be altered, the nutritional rich silt that will help plants grow could be impacted that’s just what took place as the Aswan Dam was finished in Egypt.

The majority of hydroelectric power plants supply public agencies; there are some, which are financed by industrial organizations for their specific, use. Such industries just like aluminum electrolytic plants develop their own wave power plants because of the high energy intake. In fact, the world’s biggest dam the Coulee Dam, located in Bellingham Wa was switched to aid Alcoa Aluminum plant that at the time was the biggest supplier of components for war airplanes; afterwards though it was adopted for public electrical power and as a source with regard to irrigation.

Electrical power to your homes and companies has been confirmed to be a feasible need for our modern-day culture. Since we continue to require more power, we must utilize additional alternative energy sources for example hydroelectric.

There is a different way to generate hydroelectric energy and you get this form the Sea. This is also known as influx power or influx energy which utilizes changes in the air degrees of sealed chambers to strength turbines. When a trend rises into the holding chamber, the rise water shoves the air out which in turn turns a generator.

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This articles makes a really good point.

Which is…why develop a product (even one as worthy as an alternative fuel source) if there are no customers for it…hmmmm.

The point about the airlines is spot on – it’s one thing for an individual to be OK with paying a little more (that’s called personal choice and is our god given right) but to expect businesses to pay millions of $$ more – not realistic and not gonna happen!  Especially a business as fragile as an airline. I read an article once that stated: If you exclude Southwest Airlines, the rest of the airline business, when taken over their entire history have made a loss – now that’s an un-verified statement, but it’s an interesting thought

Cheers, Andy

Alternative fuel sources

 

 

 

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Most people I know are constantly complaining about high gasoline prices. In addition, as prices show no signs of stabilizing, mainly due to the country’s reliance on oil from other countries. More and more research money is being spent on trying to find viable alternative fuel sources, one of which appears to be ethanol.

Ethanol is a form of renewable energy known as biofuel. Ethanol and other biofuels do not create the same harmful byproducts as fossil fuels which means the by using more biofuels we can help to protect the environment as well as reducing the cost of running a motor vehicle. Lower gas costs mean lower transportation costs, which affects everything from the price of groceries to the number of flights available to your favorite place.

The process used to create ethanol is actually quite simple and there are over 100 ethanol plants in the US alone that are working hard to perfect the creation of ethanol and other bio fuels.

Ethanol is produced from the fermentation of biological material (plants) such as corn, trees, waste paper and even some industrial waste. The only real requirement is that the material contains sugars and starches i.e. anything can be fermented is a viable material.

Just like any fermentation process, yeast (and other bacteria) is used to ferment the biomass; it’s identical to the process used for making alcoholic drinks such as wine or beer. When you ferment biomass, the end product is ethanol, which is a highly concentrated alcohol. In order to produce something that can be used to fuel an internal combustion engine, raw ethanol needs to be purified and further processed.

As you can see the sources of raw materials for ethanol production are varied and environmentally friendly (with a little more research it may soon be possible to use things like sawdust as biomass). Which means that ethanol could well be the most cost effective solution to the ever-rising gas prices, and one of the critical alternatives fuel sources

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Just a Few Solar Energy Facts to Get us Started