Can Solar Panels Work In Winter?

August 24, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

When solar energy is touted as one of the natural replacements for the consumable energies of coal and oil, one of the first questions that is always asked is: what will happen in winter? Can solar panels function when there is precious little sunlight?

The simple answer is, yes. Even in winter, most countries experience six to seven hours of daylight, and to an extent this is all a solar panel needs to function. Solar panels, despite the name, do not necessarily need direct, hot sunlight to produce electricity; but what they do need is light. In daytime, some of the sun’s rays are getting through to earth even when it is cold and overcast. Quite simply, if these rays weren’t getting through the cloud cover, it would not appear to be daytime!

Therefore, for as long as it is daytime, solar panels can function and produce electricity to a degree. Temperature is a relatively unimportant consideration in solar panel development; in fact, some experiments have shown that the mechanisms and generation systems of solar panels actually function better when it is colder. All electrical systems slow down somewhat in intense heat – such as trying to use a laptop on a hot day – and the crisper temperatures of winter can allow solar panels to work to their full potential.

While all of the above it is true, it is nevertheless also a fact that the output of solar panels is effected by a lack of daylight – something which is characteristic with winter. One would not get the same effective output on a winter’s day as one would on a summer’s day, and for this reason other energy generation sources are required for the winter months. Thankfully, in most countries winter may decrease the amount of solar output, but the weather changes in a way that is beneficial to other renewable energies – such as tidal or wind power, which may be less effective in the more temperate summer months.

Solar Panels and Overcast Days

August 24, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

There is a general misconception that solar panels, used to generate electricity and energy from the sun, do not work on overcast or cloudy days. This continues into the belief that solar panels are only useful during the summer months, rendering this form of renewable energy somewhat useless for half of the year during winter.

It is easy to understand where these misconceptions come from. Solar panels need solar light (and it is assumed, heat) to function; without sun rays hitting the panels, it would make sense that no energy could be produced.

However, there is a difference in what we consider to be the sun’s power and what is the actual power of the sun. We as humans associate solar rays with strong, yellow sunshine in a cloudless sky; the kind of weather conditions that have you reaching for a hat and for sunblock. While solar panels will flourish in these conditions, just because the sky is overcast or the temperature is low does not mean solar panels will cease to function.

This is because the sun is always casting rays down on earth, even if there is cloud cover interrupting its route to the surface of our planet. Many people each year, much to their surprise, find themselves suffering sunburn on what appeared to be a cloudy and overcast day. This is because the sunlight is still getting through, but it is just more filtered and obstructed than usual.

For solar energy, the important part of the above sentence is that the sun is still getting through. Even when we would consider the sun not to be shining, it is – unless it is night time! Solar panels are therefore able to function in most weather conditions, albeit with reduced output.

How Reliable Is Solar Power?

August 24, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

With solar power being flaunted as one of the realistic alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels, it is only natural that enlightened thoughts are turning to the reliability of the energy it can create. After all, the sun is an intermittent energy source. It does not always shine, with most countries experiencing cloud cover for large portions of the year. There is also the issue that the sun is only available for, at most, 12 hours out of every 24. Could the world’s energy demands really be sustained from what seems like such an unreliable heat source?

The answer is probably no, which is why solar energy is only being spoken of as one of the options for continued energy production. However, solar energy is one of the most viable of the options mentioned, even if it could not meet the entire world’s demands for energy by itself.

The reason for this is simple; the sun is a constant. The sun will continue to shine for as long as there is life on earth; by the time the sun begins to dim, the earth as we know it will begin to die. Unlike the expendable resources of coal and oil, this makes the sun very dependable – it will be here for as long as the world will.

The sun is also relatively easy to ‘tap’ into, as it shines directly onto earth and needs no human interaction for it to work to its full potential. While manufacturing solar panels can be expensive, they are relatively hassle free once created, and the only engineering they require to function is to be pointed as directly as possible toward the sun. This is certainly more viable than having to dig into the earth for coal, or send rigs out to sea to collect oil.

Solar power is, therefore, a reliable energy source. How effective it is is a matter of debate, but one should largely assume that much – if not all – of the world’s demand for energy can be satisfied by our most powerful celestial friend.

Renewable Energy vs. Fossil Fuels

August 24, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

At present, the vast majority of the world’s energy resources come from the burning and manipulation of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include oil and coal; essentially, generating electricity from already-formed substances found on earth. Most of us have seen gigantic oil rigs towering on the horizon and coal mining is still an important industry for many countries; it is from these industries we get most of our energy and electricity.

However, there is a problem. Fossil fuels such as oil and coal are not sustainable resources; in essence, one day, they will run out. Oil and coal generate over thousands – if not tens of thousands – of years, and humans have been tapping these resources ever since the Industrial Revolutions of the 19th century. While it may sound like scare mongering, one day these fuels will cease to exist.

Various estimates can be found on how much fossil fuel is left, though most scientists agree we have mined over the ‘half way’ point. This is means that the Earth only has around 40% of its total supply of fossil fuels left to give, and it would take millennia to create more naturally.

Therefore, the search for renewable and sustainable energy has become pressing. Various options are being presented, most of which capitalize on the free natural resources of the planet we live on. Wind and solar power are increasingly spoken of as the natural alternatives to fossil fuels, while tidal and water power are also viable alternatives. Whichever method is chosen as the way forward for energy generation, they will need to both viable and sustainable so they can meet the world’s increasing demand for energy.

An Introduction To Solar Power

August 24, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

We hear a lot about so-called renewable energy in the modern world. As the effects of global warming – or climate change, depending on your preferred terminology – become more apparent, the need to find a way to generate energy without damaging the Earth becomes all the more important.

One of the most talked about methods of making energy is solar power. As the name would suggest, solar power involves taking the energy of the sun and using that energy to generate electricity on Earth. While solar power is not a new concept, it is nevertheless looking like it will receive much focus during the search for renewable energies.

Solar power works by concentrating the heat of the sun in a specific place. To do this, solar panels or heliostats are erected in the sun’s glare, where they capture heat. The surfaces of these panels are usually mirrored or shiny, so as to increase the already potent heat of the sun. This heat is then used to generate electricity through a variety of methods; the most common of these is to use the heat to boil water and general steam, which is then used to power a traditional electricity generator.

Solar power is not infallible as a technology, but it is more reliable than was first previously thought. Despite popular conviction, it is possible to generate electricity using solar panels on overcast days, which opens the technologies up to most countries. For solar power to be truly effective, however, the panels need to be placed where they receive continual sunlight and heat throughout the year. For this reasons, countries such as Spain are becoming the pioneers of solar power – though their scientific advances will eventually benefit us all.

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