Solar power is a renewable energy source generated indirectly by focusing collected sunlight in a concentrated solar power (CSP) system or directly by converting sunlight into electricity using photovoltaics (PV). Solar energy is widely promoted as a cost-effective and environmentally responsible alternative to energy produced by burning fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal and accounts for approximately 9% of all energy consumed in the United States.
A Short History Of Solar Power
Solar power was first harnessed as early as 7 BC when humans used magnified sunlight to start fires. The first mechanical application of solar energy occurred in 3 BC when the Romans used “burning mirrors” to light torches for religious ceremonies. In 1883, inventor Charles Fritts produced the first electricity generating solar cells from selenium wafers and installed them on his roof in New York City. Although operating only at 1% efficiency, he noted that the current “… is continuous, constant and of considerable force not only by exposure to sunlight but also to dim, diffused daylight.” Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the petroleum industry surged and photovoltaic technology stagnated significantly until the 1970s energy crisis.
What Is A Concentrated Solar Power System (CSP)?
Concentrated solar power systems, also referred to as solar thermal systems, generate renewable energy by using lenses or mirrors mounted on sun-tracking systems to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a singular focal point. The concentrated sunlight heats a working fluid to more than 1,000 °C, which drives a steam turbine connected to an electric power generator. Currently, CSP generates approximately 6,000 MW world-wide.
What Are Photovoltaics (PV)?
Photovoltaics, also referred to as solar panels, are solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity using the photovoltaic effect, a physical phenomenon where certain materials such as selenium and silicon generate voltage and electric current when exposed to light. Solar cells are connected in an array to produce direct current (DC), which fluctuates based on the sun’s intensity. Currently, PV power generates approximately 650 GW globally, more than 100 times the amount generated by CSPs.
How Much Solar Power Is Being Generated?
PV arrays are currently the fastest growing source of renewable energy, increasing over 40% per year, with current worldwide installed capacity approaching 650 GW. CSP installations generate approximately 6 GW cumulatively. The International Energy Agency anticipates that more than 25% of the world’s energy will be supplied by solar power by 2050. However, due to the recent global push to develop sustainable energy sources and resulting current rate of adoption, many believe that it will be closer to 50% by 2050.
Who Makes Solar Power Systems?
The following manufacturers make solar power systems:
|Heliene Photovoltaic Modules|
Models: 36M, 36P, 60M, 60P, 72M, 72P, 96M, 96P
Models: NeON 2, NeON R
Models: 50 Flexible, 115, 160, 170 Flexible
Models: Tesla Solar Panels, Tesla Solar Roof
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