Solar Power: An Alternative Energy Source

According to the Harris Poll of over 2,000 Americans, 78% felt that the solar energy benefit outweighed its risk, if any, with wind power running a close second place at 75%. Generationally speaking, Millennials want America to run on solar and wind, Generation X is looking for green leadership, while the “Baby Boomers” still believe coal and natural gas have a future. If the polls are truly indicative of how Americans feel, then our state and federal energy policies needs to quickly make the change.

Click here to understand some of the barriers with providing solar energy in Pennsylvania from Kirsi Jansa.

A new generation of international greentech leaders is emerging through a program called TechWomen. Seventy-eight women from the Middle East and Africa were selected to participate in the four-week long program. They were paired with professional female counterparts in the United States to work on various projects ranging from sustainable agriculture to solar. SolarCity and SunEdison were two solar companies among the 42 organizations and companies that had opened their doors to the program. One of the participants, Asal Ibrahim worked with Vista Solar a commercial solar installer. She learned first-hand the impact dust has on a solar panel’s capacity to generate electricity. After she completed the program, she returned home to work on her master’s degree in renewable energy and sustainable development at the University of Jordan.

Click here to learn about the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.

BrightSource Energy designed the “largest solar thermal energy plant in the world” located in the Ivanpah Valley of the Mojave Desert in California. Steam turbines generate enough electricity (377 megawatts) to power more than 140,000 homes. To produce steam for the turbines, water is heated by more than 170,000 mirrors that focus sunlight directly onto the boilers. These boilers sit on top of three towers that reach nearly 500 feet in height.

A company, from Idaho called Solar Roadways, has developed hexagonal solar panels that can generate enough power to melt snow and ice, light the roadway, and supply excess electricity to perhaps charging stations at rest stops for electric cars. This energy sustainable road system can even support trucks weighing over 124 tons. Turning highways into giant solar farms is the focus of Solar Roadways.

In 2014, SolaRoad built the world’s first solar road in the Netherlands. The 70-meter test bike path produced enough electricity to power a small house for one year. The paths durability was tested by more than 150,000 cyclists, and the panels are strong enough to support a 12-tonne fire truck. “The researchers designed the panels to not only let in as much light as possible, but also to last at least 20 years – a similar lifespan to rooftop solar panels.”

Today’s residential rooftop solar panels can hold the sun’s energy for a few microseconds; however, UCLA chemists have expanded that capability by several weeks. By using their understanding of plant photosynthesis, they are able to mimic the process by pulling apart and keeping separate the negative and positive electrical charges. This is a first for modern synthetic organic photovoltaic materials. The next step for the researchers is to insert these inexpensive photovoltaic materials into an actual solar cell and produce a closed circuit.

If you would like to see what a solar farm looks like, then check out the campus of  Mount St. Mary’s University.  They are located at 16300 Old Emmitsburg Road, Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727.  On campus grounds, Constellation Energy has constructed a 100 acre solar farm that produces 17.4 megawatts of electricity.  Of that amount, 1.3 MW of power is available to the university’s sports complex and the remaining 16.1 MW is used by the state of Maryland.  First Solar Inc. supplied the solar panels, and for those investors out there the ticker symbol is FSLR for First Solar Inc. Click here if you would like to know more about this project.

There seems to be many who are working towards a clean and sustainable future as exemplified by the sampling of projects and programs listed above. Let’s keep the focus and investment dollars on the future so that we can build new technologies, and move away from costly extraction operations as previously discussed. This is a generational request.

Click here to view post references.

For my next post, we will look at new practices in organic farming.

Click here to view a video entitled Sustainability Pioneers: Becoming Energy Independent REVISED from Kirsi Jansa

Click here to test your solar IQ.

Click here to test drive solar power for your home before spending a single dollar.

Click here to learn about training and certification in solar energy.

“Stop burning fossil fuels now: there is no CO2 ‘technofix’, scientists warn”. Click here to learn more.


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