Solar Power – Part 1

So, for those solar newbies out there, you might be asking yourselves: What is solar power exactly?

Before we delve into that answer, I want to discuss How to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This may seem off topic but it does relate to solar power. My brother in law worked for a large-scale solar power plant located in the California desert. He was a solar photovoltaic installer employed by a solar panel manufacturer. The main component of his solar installer’s job was to prepare the installation site. If the building where the solar panels were to be installed needed to be upgraded to support the solar panels, he would have to reinforce the roof, replace rafters, or install supports to handle the added weight of the panels. On one of his jobs he was seriously injured. His doctors said he would not be able to work for at least a year or more because of the resulting disability. Since he had always worked on jobs where social security was with held from his paycheck, he seemed the perfect candidate to apply for social security disability benefits. Let me say defining what solar power is and how it is derived is a whole lot simpler that applying for social security disability benefits. And it is disheartening to learn that the Disability Determination Services only approves approximately 37% of initial Social Security Disability applications. Fortunately my brother in law was approved and he didn’t have to end up hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer to guide him though the various appeal hearings. My brother in law decided during his rehab to go back to school and become a computer-controlled machine tool operator. These are the workers who run the computers that directy controlled the (CNC) machine tools that forms and shapes solar mirror or panel components. One of the devices he is training on is used to fabricate intricate items, like designs engraved on jewelry items. He showed me couple of matching cubic zirconia rings that he had engraved with a super cool eagle logo that he created for a small jewelry business. Not just jewelry, but tiny computer circuits and micro connectors were also part of his training exercises. The new training will allow him to remain in the solar energy field, but at a job that is less hazardous and less physically demanding.

Although this page provides just a general understanding of solar power, be aware that there is a huge and complex solar energy industry that allows us to harness solar energy and put it to practical use.

Solar power is quite simply the generation of electricity from sunlight. This is done in one of two ways, directly with photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly by concentrating solar power (CSP). The latter consists of focusing the sun’s energy to boil water which is subsequently used to provide power.

In 2008, solar power had the potential to provide over 1,000 times the total world energy consumption in 2008; however it only provided for only 0.02% of the total that year. Numbers are growing steadily, though and it it continues to double in use every two to three years, solar power would become the dominant energy source this century.

Though solar power is clearly not available at all times, we can predict with a fairly strong degree of accuracy when it will and will not be available. Certain of the intermittent solar technologies – such as the solar thermal concentrators – have an element of thermal storage. In the case of thermal concentrators, molten salts store excess solar energy in the form of heat which can be made available during periods that solar power is not available to produce electricity. Another technology – orbital solar power such as solar power satellites – doesn’t have to deal with intermittent issues, but it does require satellite launching / beaming of the power to receiving antennas back on Earth.

There are many exciting applications of solar power.

Remember those solar-powered calculators? They use a single solar cell photovoltaics (PV) to get their juice. Now, with today’s technology, an array of much larger photovoltaics power off-grid homes.

Though solar power plants can face rather high installation costs, the costs of said installation are steadily decreasing as we get a handle of its learning curve. Another exciting development of solar power is the replacement of traditional power plants with solar power plants, which is currently happening in developing countries. There exists in Germany, a combined power plant that usings a mix of wind, water, biomass and solar power to produce 100% renewable energy.

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