Solar power, in my opinion, will solve a majority of our future power problems. Many people I talk to wonder about solar power, and how it works. I am currently using one of the many solar power systems that are available to exhaust hot air from my attic, but more on that very interesting fan in a few moments.
You might wonder if there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of solar power. There are indeed pluses and minuses, but I can tell you it works as friends of mine currently capture the sun's rays and transform this solar power into electricity for their home in Colorado. Their home solar power system produces so much electricity, it allows them to sell electricity back to the local utility company! Yes, their electrical meter sometimes runs backwards. The future for solar energy and residential solar power is as bright as new penny. In fact, I even have a portable solar power radio that my friends think is the coolest thing around.
The reasons solar power is so attractive are simple. The sun is always on, it produces energy very consistently, the solar energy is clean and it is free. Many people don't realize the sun is responsible for a vast majority of all the energy we currently have on our planet. The few exceptions to this are the naturally-occurring radioactive elements that fuel nuclear power plants, gravity which allows flowing water to produce hydro-electric power and the moon's gravity which produces the daily ocean tides. Energy is created in any number of ways from these processes and others to be sure.
Wind energy comes from solar power that is created when the sun heats up different parts of the earth and atmosphere which in turn creates weather systems. Solar energy causes plants to grow which are then transformed into coal, oil, natural gas, propane, etc. by geologic processes. But the trouble with this is that we use up these solar-energy byproducts faster than Mother Nature can make them.
The direct infrared energy of the sun can heat up solid materials like concrete, brick, block, stone or water. Mother Nature is giving us energy each day for free, we just have to discover how to use it more effectively.
My vision of how solar power might work in the future is fairly interesting. Well, I think it is interesting, but my kids think I am crazy. Try to clear your head, and focus your thoughts out into the future. Forget about costs for the moment.
Imagine a series of space stations floating above the earth that have large concave dishes that collect the direct rays of the sun. The parabolic dishes concentrate this solar power into beams of high-powered light, and focus them like laser beams to power plants that reside near the oceans, large rivers or lakes.
If a number of space stations are in Geo-synchronous orbit, the stations that may be in the shadow of the earth get solar power passed to them by the stations that are getting direct rays from the sun. I am confident engineers can figure out a way to get solar energy to the power plants here on earth 24 hours a day no matter if it is dark, raining or snowing. I can see this high-powered beam of light cutting through clouds like a hot knife through butter.
My idea for this system comes from my days as a child. The light beam of solar power I envision is similar to that beam created by a magnifying glass, but much larger. Surely you have used a magnifying glass to start grass, paper or leaves on fire before. The heat from the concentrated rays of sunlight is intense. Tell me I am not the only mischievous kid to do that!
The solar power from the light beam is the heat source for boilers in the power plants. It takes the place of the fuel we now use such as coal, natural gas or nuclear energy. The solar power heats up the water in the boilers of the power plant creating steam which is then used to run turbines that create electricity. But wait, it gets better.
The power plants near the ocean use this energy to boil ocean water. After the steam has run through the turbines, it can be used as low-pressure steam to run manufacturing plants near the power plants. It can even be used to heat homes and businesses that might be near the power facilities.
Once the steam condenses back to water, it is no longer salt water. The solar power has now not only created electricity, but has also created vast amounts of fresh water that can be used for drinking, recreation or manufacturing purposes.
Pure oxygen and hydrogen can then be created from this water by taking the free electricity coming off the generators and injecting the electrical current into the water. Anyone who remembers their high school chemistry class knows that this electrolysis will readily transform the liquid water into pure hydrogen and oxygen.
The hydrogen can be used as fuel for cars and the oxygen can be used for all sorts of things. The best part about burning hydrogen in cars is that it creates clean energy. Once the hydrogen burns it exhausts water vapor which then condenses and turns back into liquid water.
The best part about this fantasy of mine is that we already know how to do everything except get the space stations up there and working. There might also be a small problem with airplanes flying through the light beams. I haven't figured out a fool-proof way to stop airplanes from getting fried by the light beam. That is a job for the engineers, as I am just the idea guy.
But let's dial back into today and see how I am really using solar power, since I don't think my vision of the future will happen in my lifetime, if it even happens that way at all. My ideas may turn out to be impractical or too costly. Someone else may figure out a much better way to use solar power.
I installed a great attic ventilation fan that operates using solar power. The best part about the fan is that the solar panel is not directly attached to the fan. This allows you to place the fan on your roof so it will not be seen from the street and still work. The solar panel is then put in a different location where it is exposed to the maximum amount of solar radiation. People who live above the earth's equator would want the solar panel to face south. People who live below the equator would want the panel to face north.
The solar panel comes with enough wire so it can be 12 feet away from the fan. But the manufacturer tells me the panel can be located up to 100 feet away if you need to separate the fan from the panel. You simply have to splice extra low-voltage wire to the existing wire that is coming out of the solar panel. If you decide to locate the solar panel more than 25 feet from the fan, you must increase the gauge of the wire to account for the voltage drop.
I plan to incorporate solar power into the next home I build. That will be in New Hampshire. There are many sunny days up there, and my house will be built on a magnificent slope that faces south. If you are looking to buy land and want to use solar power, be sure the lot faces the right direction.