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Solar Energy – Application, Benefits and Limitations

Written on June 20, 2008 – 4:50 pm | by Rick

Solar Panel ArrayThe sun provides almost infinite solar energy that can be converted into electric energy usable for all. The technology is photovoltaic which converts light into electricity. Due to the growing environmental issues and awareness raised, there is an inevitable need for alternative energies other than fossil fuels that almost always emit greenhouse gases or other air polluting substances that are hazardous to the environment and atmosphere – ozone layer. Thus, the research and studies devoted to the manufacturing of solar cells have increased during the recent years. You can start using the solar applications available today discussed in this article and help save the environment!

Solar energy can be used in arrays of applications:

 Domestic related application

Photovoltaic technologies have been incorporated in industrial buildings and homes even to provide electrical power and non-photovoltaic systems can also be used. Solar lighting for example, can be used as the main source for interior illumination without the needing the use of solar cells. Church or other historic buildings that have high windows around the high walls under the roof area is a solar lightning example known as clerestory. Another solar lighting example are known as light tubes, first used by Egyptians where a cylindrical tube collects light using reflective materials and transmit light into the building with minimal loss of light.

Photovoltaic technology is applied in solar heating systems where solar thermal collectors collect and moves heat to the intended point for use. Examples include solar heating systems used in swimming pools to keep the water warm, under-floor heating used by stadiums especially in Europe where sports are played in cold conditions.

Solar cookers are very environmentally friendly as they maintain air quality unlike fuels or firewood that produces smoke. SODIS – Solar water disinfection can be done by exposing PET (plastic) bottles filled with water which is a viable method for household-scale water treatment and storage.

Transportation related application

 In space, photovoltaic has always been used as a principle source of energy. It has been rare to see solar cells being used on commercial vehicles because it proved to be ineffective. The area of commercial cars is usually insufficient to install enough solar cells, thereby failing to supply sufficient energy. This however, is slowly changing as the development on solar cell technology continues. Venturi Automobile, a French company is known for their electric and solar hybrid commercial car, now have an electro-solar car, an energy-autonomous vehicle and an electric sports car.

Other application

Remember solar calculators? Many other low power devices are increasingly using solar power. Two of these common solar power driven devices are parking meters and emergency telephones.

Although the use of solar energy does not produce any harmful effects to the environment, it has been argued that the production of the photovoltaic panels may contribute a certain amount of pollution. Cadmium (used in several types of panels) is a toxic substance when in its metallic form and may accumulate in ecological food chains.

To simply put it, the advantages and disadvantages of solar power are as follows:

1.       Advantages

1.1.    Solar energy usage is pollution free. Manufacturing process by pollution controls could produce zero emission results. Recycling technologies are currently being developed.

1.2.    Solar energy devices/equipments operate with little or no maintenance.

1.3.    Development of high efficiency solar cells is underway and mass production costs are reducing rapidly.

2.       Disadvantages

2.1.    Often more expensive/costly

2.2.    Solar power cannot run at night or times where the sun is not present.


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