Published On: Sat, Sep 19th, 2015
Uncategorized | By Unique Times

EARTH’S SAVIOUR RENEWABLE ENERGY

Earth’s Savior - Renewable Energy - Unique Times

Earth’s Savior – Renewable Energy – Unique Times

The term “biomass” refers to organic matter that stores energy through the process of photosynthesis. It exists in one form as plants and can be transferred through the food chain to animals’ bodies and their wastes, all of which can be converted for everyday human use through processes such as combustion or pyrolysis, which releases the carbon dioxide stored in the plant. Many of the biomass fuels used today come in the form of wood products, dried vegetation, crop residues, and aquatic plants. Biomass has become one of the most commonly used renewable sources of energy in the last two decades, second only to hydropower in the generation of electricity. It is such a widely utilized source of energy, probably due to its low cost and indigenous nature, that it accounts for almost 15% of the world’s total energy supply and as much as 35% in developing countries, mostly for cooking and heating.

Biomass is one of the most plentiful and well-utilized sources of renewable energy in the world. Broadly speaking, it is organic material produced by the photosynthesis of light. The chemical material (organic compounds of carbons) is stored and can then be used to generate energy. The most common biomass used for energy is wood from trees. Wood has been used by humans for producing energy for heating and cooking from a very long time.

Biomass has been converted by partial-pyrolysis to charcoal for thousands of years. Charcoal, in turn has been used for forging metals and for light industry for millennia. Both wood and charcoal formed part of the backbone of the early Industrial Revolution (much northern England, Scotland and Ireland were deforested to produce charcoal) prior to the discovery of coal for energy.

Wood is still used extensively for energy in both household situations, and in industry, particularly in the timber, paper, pulp and other forestry-related industries. Woody biomass accounts for over 10% of the primary energy consumed in Austria, and much more in most of the developing world, primarily for cooking and space heating.

It is used to raise steam, which, in turn, is used as a by-product to generate electricity. Considerable research and development work is currently underway to develop smaller gasifiers that would produce electricity on a small-scale. For the moment, however, biomass is used for off-grid electricity generation, but almost exclusively on a large-industrial-scale.

There are two issues that affect the evaluation of biomass as a viable solution to our energy problem regarding the farming and production of biomass and the factory conversion of it into usable energy or electricity. There are many environmental and economic benefits to biomass but the detriments presents a difficult challenge in evaluating the potential success of biomass as an alternative fuel. For instance, the replacement of coal by biomass could result in “a considerable reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect.” On the other hand, the use of wood and other plant material for fuel may mean deforestation. We are all aware of the problems associated with denuding forests, and widespread clear cutting can lead to groundwater contamination and irreversible erosion patterns that could literally change the structure of the world ecology.

Biomass has to be considered in the search for an alternative source of energy. It is abundant in a wide-scale yet non-disruptive in manner, since it is capable of being implemented at all levels of society. Although tree plantations have “considerable promise” in supplying an energy source, “actual commercial use of plantation-grown fuels for power generation is limited to a few isolated experiences.” Supplying the United States’ current energy needs would require an area of one million square miles. That’s roughly one-third of the area of the 48 contiguous states. There is no way that plantations could be implemented at this scale, not to mention that soil exhaustion would eventually occur. Biomass cannot replace our current dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas, but it can complement other renewables such as solar and wind energy.

According to many Industry experts, “If the contribution of biomass to the world energy economy is to grow, technological innovations will be needed, so that biomass can be converted to usable energy in ways that are more efficient, less polluting, and at least as economical as today’s practices.” When we have enough government support and have been allotted enough land for the continuous growth of energy crops for biomass-based energy, we may have a successful form of alternative energy. But “as long as worldwide prices of coal, oil and gas are relatively low, the establishment of plantations dedicated to supplying electric power or other higher forms of energy will occur only where financial subsidies or incentives exist or where other sources of energy are not available.” Although it is currently utilized across the globe, biomass energy is clearly not capable of sustaining the world’s energy needs on its own.

 

Nanotechnology Solar Energy

 

The Earth receives an incredible supply of solar energy. The sun, an average star, is a fusion reactor that has been burning for over 4 billion years. It provides enough energy in one minute to supply the world’s energy needs for one year. In one day, it provides more energy than our current population would consume in 27 years. In fact, “The amount of solar radiation striking the earth over a three-day period is equivalent to the energy stored in all fossil energy sources.”

Solar energy is a free, inexhaustible resource, yet harnessing it is a relatively new idea. The ability to use solar power for heat was the first discovery. A Swiss scientist, Horace de Saussure, built the first thermal solar collector in 1767, which was later used to heat water and cook food. The first commercial patent for a solar water heater went to Clarence Kemp of the US in 1891. This system was bought by two California executives and installed in one-third of the homes in Pasadena by 1897.

Producing electricity from solar energy was the second discovery. In 1839 a French physicist named Edmund Becquerel realized that the sun’s energy could produce a “photovoltaic effect” (photo = light, voltaic = electrical potential). In the 1880s, selenium photovoltaic (PV) cells were developed that could convert light into electricity with 1-2% efficiency (“the efficiency of a solar cell is the percentage of available sunlight converted by the photovoltaic cell into electricity”), but how the conversion happened was not understood. Photovoltaic power therefore “remained a curiosity for many years, since it was very inefficient at turning sunlight into electricity.” Then Albert Einstein proposed an explanation for the “photoelectric effect” in the early 1900s, for which he won a Nobel Prize and people began to understand the related photovoltaic effect.

Solar energy may have had great potential, but it was left on the backburner whenever fossil fuels were more affordable and available and made to look more advantageous for handful of greedy people. “Only in the last few decades when growing energy demands, increasing environmental problems and declining fossil fuel resources made us look to alternative energy options have we focused our attention on truly exploiting this tremendous resource.” For instance, the US Department of Energy funded the installation and testing of over 3,000 PV systems during the 1973-1974 oil embargoes. By the late 1970s, energy companies and government agencies had invested in the PV industry, and “a tremendous acceleration in module development took place.” Solar energy improvements were again sought during the Gulf War in the 1990s.

Considering that “the first practical solar cells were made less than 30 years ago,” we have come a long way. The profligation of solar professional companies designing unique and specific solar power systems for individual homes, means there is no longer an excuse not to consider solar power for your home. The biggest jumps in efficiency came “with the advent of the transistor and accompanying semiconductor technology.” The production cost has fallen to nearly 1/300 of what it was during the space program of the mid-century and the purchase cost has gone from $200 per watt in the 1950s to a possible mere $1 per watt today. The efficiency has increased dramatically to 40.8% according to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab’s new world record as of August 2008.

We still use solar power in the same two forms today, thermal and photovoltaic. The first concentrates on sunlight, converts it into heat, and applies it to a steam generator or engine to be converted into electricity in order “to warm buildings, heat water, generate electricity, dry crops or destroy dangerous waste.” Electricity is generated when the heated fluid drives turbines or other machinery. The second form of solar power produces electricity directly without moving parts. Today’s photovoltaic system is composed of cells made of silicon, the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust. “Power is produced when sunlight strikes the semiconductor material and creates an electric current.” The smallest unit of the system is a cell. Cells wired together form a module, and modules wired together form a panel. A group of panels is called an array, and several arrays form an array field.

There are several advantages of photovoltaic solar power that make it “one of the most promising renewable energy sources in the world.” It is non-polluting, has no moving parts that could break down, requires little maintenance and no supervision, and has a life of 20-30 years with low running costs. It is especially unique because no large-scale installation is required. Remote areas can easily produce their own supply of electricity by constructing as small or as large of a system as needed. Solar power generators are simply distributed to homes, schools, or businesses, where their assembly requires no extra development or land area and their function is safe and quiet. As communities grow, more solar energy capacity can be added, “thereby allowing power generation to keep in step with growing needs without having to overbuild generation capacity as is often the case with conventional large scale power systems.” Compare those characteristics to those of coal, oil, gas, or nuclear power, and the choice is easy. Solar energy technologies offer a clean, renewable and domestic energy source. Photovoltaic power even has advantages over wind power, hydropower, and solar thermal power. The latter three require turbines with moving parts that are noisy and require maintenance.

Solar energy is most sought today in developing countries, the fastest growing segment of the photovoltaic market. People go without electricity as the sun beats down on the land, making solar power the obvious energy choice. “Governments are finding its modular, decentralized character ideal for filling the electric needs of the thousands of remote villages in their countries.” It is much more practical than the extension of expensive power lines into remote areas, where people do not have the money to pay for conventional electricity.

India is becoming one of the world’s main producers of PV modules, with plans to power 100,000 villages and install solar-powered telephones in its 500,000 villages.

Solar power is just as practical in populated areas connected to the local electrical power grid as it is in remote areas. “An average home has more than enough roof area to produce enough solar electricity to supply all of its power needs. With an inverter, which converts direct current (DC) power from the solar cells to alternating current (AC), which is what most home appliances run on, a solar home can look and operate very much like a home that is connected to a power line.”

Household energy supply is another use of solar power. There are actually four broad categories that can be identified for solar energy use: industrial, rural habitation, grid-connected, and consumer/indoor. Industrial uses represent the largest applications of solar power in the past 30 years. “Telecommunications, oil companies, and highway safety equipment all rely on solar power for dependable, constant power far from any power lines.” Roadside call boxes and lighted highway signs rely on the sun’s energy in order to provide reliable services without buried cable connections or diesel generators. Navigational systems such as marine buoys and other unmanned installations in harsh remote areas are also ideal applications for solar power because “the load demands are well known and the requirements for reliable power are the highest.”Rural habitation includes “cabins, homes, villages, clinics, schools, farms, as well as individually powered lights and small appliances.” Grid-connected systems pair solar power with an existing grid network in order to supply a commercial site with enough energy to meet a high demand, or to supplement a family’s household supply. Consumer/indoor uses of PV cells include watches and calculators. PV modules power computers and radios.

The practicality and environmentally safe nature of solar power is influencing people worldwide, which is evident in equipment sales. “Worldwide sales have been increasing at an average rate of about 15% every year during the last decade. We believe that there is a realistic possibility for the market to continue to grow at about a 15% rate into the next decade. At this rate, the world production capacity would be 1000 MW by 2020, and photovoltaic could be a $ 1 Trillion industry.”

There are only two primary disadvantages to using solar power: amount of sunlight and cost of equipment. The amount of sunlight a location receives “varies greatly depending on geographical location, time of day, season and clouds. The southwestern United States is one of the world’s best areas for sunlight. Globally, other areas receiving very high solar intensities include developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.” See also sustainable house design.

And while “solar energy technologies have made huge technological and cost improvements, they are still more expensive than traditional energy sources.” However solar equipment will eventually pay for itself in 2 to 5 years depending on how much sun a particular location receives. Then the user will have a virtually free energy source until the end of the equipment’s working life, according to a paper called “Energy Payback Time of Crystalline Silicon Solar Modules.” Future improvements are projected to decrease the payback time to 1 to 3 years.

Conserve Energy with Nanotechnology Solar Panel

 

With the evident effects of environmental neglect, energy all over the world is becoming more and more depleted. With energy sources becoming scarce, it generally results to a stiff competition to obtain the limited sources for energy resulting to high power charges. There are several sources of energy, and some of them are even natural resources such as wind, solar, and hydro. But even if the sources of energy are natural resources and should be delivered to the people at a lower cost, still, power costs are high due to expenses incurred while generating electricity.

For several years, scientists and researches has been looking at other means to obtain the following:

  • Minimize generation costs of
  • Provide energy to the people without causing any damages to the environment.
  • Generate renewable and recyclable energy
  • Provide energy and electricity with the least possible
  • Deliver electricity and energy to the public at the lowest possible

 

Achieving These Goals Using Nanotechnology Solar Panel

Nanotechnology aims to build important things with the use of tiny machines or by producing highly advanced, essential, and quality products using tools and techniques provided by nanotechnology.

The researches come up with a solar panel that would accurately capture solar energy and can be utilized at home, in the office, and even in large-scale industrial areas. Although there are already solar panels available in the market today, these solar panels that are usually made of silicone panels only capture 67.4% light incident or solar energy emitted by the sun. Whereas, with nanotechnology, industrial and electrical manufacturers can now produce a coating for solar panels using nano rods that can capture 96.7 % light incident.

Technology used in Nanotechnology solar panels looks like multi-layer funnels designed to capture light incident. The first layer absorbs the light that hits the panel at wide outer angles and turns it to a slightly narrower angle. The succeeding layers become narrower as it funnels the light till it reaches the active region of the panel at a 90° angle. This process makes the solar panel securely capture the sun’s energy without having to rotate with the sun.

 

Benefits of Nanotechnology Solar Panel

Using a Nanotechnology solar panel can give out a lot of benefits not just for your personal advantages but to the whole of mankind. Some of these benefits include:

  • Lower solar power cost. The usual silicone solar panels available in the market today are placed at a single angle and can therefore absorb and generate lesser energy making the cost of solar power high. Nanotechnology solar power is designed to absorb the sunlight from any angle thus making generating more energy and making it available at a lesser cost.
  • Environment friendly. By patronizing renewable sources of energy such as energy coming from the sun, you would help in saving the world in your own little way. Solar power is also proven safe and does not emit hazardous waste.
  • Generating energy in a clean and green manner is, of course, just one element of a low carbon economy. Another element is the way in which energy is used and finding ways to reduce waste. In this area, home insulation is a very important factor – just think of how many poorly insulated homes are in the world. Nanotechnology has helped in developing ways to coat ordinary doors and surfaces with the chemical to trap more air in, reducing heat transfer. This will prove to be another breakthrough of the future.
  • 1 Acre/MW as compared to 5 Acres/MW needed in conventional PV solar panels.
  • Off-Grid and the natural sources of lights are available in abundance at remote locations

will help empowering the lives of all.

 

Ravi Saini

Photo courtesy:Google/images may be subject to copy right

 

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EARTH’S SAVIOUR RENEWABLE ENERGY