The Thermonuclear Sun is our maternal star. It is responsible for photosynthesis and life. All the food we eat is yesterday's sunshine! The universe is cold. If it weren't for solar energy, the earth would be a frozen, dark rock. The wind from the sun powered Christopher Columbus' ship. All buildings use passive solar energy on a sunny winter day.
The hot Sun gives light and life. It is an inexhaustible supply of pollution-free power. The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs solar heated their palaces by capturing solar energy in black pools of water by day and draining the hot water into pipes in the floor of the palaces at night.
Affluent ancient Greeks designed their homes orientated to the sun to use winter sunlight for heating. Large south-facing windows were used to collect solar heat, which was stored in massive walls and floors for gradual release throughout the night. The overhangs would heat the homes in the winter and shade out the sun in summer.
In 1874, August Mouchot, a French engineer, concentrated solar energy onto a boiler and used the steam produced to operate a 1/2 horsepower engine used for pumping water in Algeria. In 1887, a parabolic solar collector was used to concentrate the sun's energy to run a steam engine that ran a printing press.
"Sun power is a pure gain to humanity, It subtracts nothing, the world will not be in the last impoverished tomorrow by the fullest use of visible solar heat to-day" -C.H. Pope 1903
In 1901, A.G. Eneas built a solar engine to pump irrigation water in Arizona. The Arizona Republic, a Phoenix newspaper, carried this description in its February 14, 1901 issue, "The unique feature of the solar motor is that it uses the heat of the Sun to produce steam. As "no fuel" is cheaper than any fuel, the saving to be effected by this device is evident. When the solar rays have heated the water in the boiler so as to produce steam, the remainder of the process is the familiar operation of compound engine and centrifugal pump.
The reflector somewhat resembles a huge umbrella, open and inverted at such an angle as to receive the full effect of the Sun's rays on 1,788 little mirrors lining its inside surface. The boiler, which is thirteen feet and six inches long, is the focal point where the reflection of the Sun is concentrated. If you reach a long pole up to the boiler it instantly begins to smoke and in a few seconds is aflame. From the boilers a flexible metallic pipe that runs to the engine house near at hand. The reflector is thirty-three and a half feet in diameter at the top and fifteen feet at the bottom. On the whole, its appearance is rather stately and graceful, and the glittering mirrors and shining boiler make it decidedly brilliant."
In Egypt in 1912, Shuman and Boys used the sun to generate a 60 horsepower engine for an irrigation project. They built a 220 foot long parabolic trough collector which, in principle, is still in use today. In 1939, the first modern attempt to heat houses with solar energy started with a model home built at MIT. Solar energy is not new and is a well-proven technology. To quote Sir George Porter, "If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago."
Solar energy has been suppressed for too long. The question is who will own the sun? Some might say that "power corrupts" was written about man's control over other men but it also applies to his control over energy resources. Solar energy put to full use would help to give the world energy independence, minimizing dangerous pollution levels and our dependence on fossil fuels.
Who would think, in this age of environmental concern that some people can still feel that solar energy does not work.
Some people feel solar will be practical when all the oil runs out. This is not true! Solar is cost effective right now, especially when you consider the cost to our health from air pollution, solar is just as competitive as any other energy source.
There are over one hundred thousand solar powered homes in the world. These pioneering home owners can now cut their ties to the utility grid and become their own power company. Solar is a stand alone micro-utility -nobody owns the sun! Its energy falls in all our back yards. Solar energy is decentralized; there are few economies of scale in the collecting of solar energy. Therefore, many small collectors are just as efficient as one large one.
Solar photovoltaic cells, which are a wafer-thin chip of plastic or glass that converts sunlight directly into electricity, were first used in 1958 on the Vanguard satellite and have been solar powering our telecommunication industry ever since. Television programming is constantly being beamed around the world using solar powered satellites, creating a global village powered by the sun.
Ever since the first Vanguard satellite, our world has been revolutionized! A revolution powered by solar energy. Did you ever stop and think that by using a telephone or watching your TV you are using solar power? Solar photovoltaic cells have helped in man's quest in the exploration of the universe by powering the first space craft to leave our solar system and enter intergalactic space.
All most people know about solar photovoltaic cells is that they are these little chips on top of their calculator. Those unbelievable little chips keep on powering your calculator year after year. What a miracle of technology! With solar powered calculators there is no need to buy batteries. Solar powered calculators should certainly prove beyond shadow of a doubt that solar energy works.
To understand the economics of solar you must first understand life cycle costing, which says solar becomes practically free after it pays for itself with money saved - that is, money you would have paid your local utility or oil or gas company. Life cycle costing means that within the life of the system, solar equipment lasts for twenty years or more. Solar is certainly economical. Solar offers long-term savings - buildings have a higher resale value with solar, as conventional fuels become scarcer and more expensive. Solar save money and conserves energy. Solar is ecological, safe and clean.
With ecological destruction of the environment such as Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez oil spill catastrophe in Alaska always on the public's mind, today's outcry for solar and other non-polluting forms of renewable energy is quite understandable. The environmental movement is a reaction to the current life-threatening situation (GLOBAL WARMING). The harmful effects of air pollution cause acid rain and cancer. The burning of fuel contributes to the overall warming of the Earth know as the "Greenhouse Effect."
Solar (hot water) thermal flat plate technology is a well-proven art that is viable throughout the U.S. for heating the water for showers/baths, dishwashing and other 120-180 F home/ commercial/ industrial application.
Everyone should understand that solar energy works and it works well in all climates. Did you know that there are now more than 200,000 residential and 15,000 commercial passive solar buildings in the U.S.?
Solar homes are cheerful, comfortable, and beautiful places to live. The architectural landscape of the U.S. is going to change. A new industry needs support based not only on economy but on sanity; doing the right thing for our future.
It is interesting to note that many of the solar collectors in use are over twenty years old, still working well and have paid for themselves many times over. A perfect example of this is 421 Hudson Street building in the middle of New York City. 421 Hudson Street has two hundred solar thermal collectors on its roof. It is a shining living example of what solar can do. Installed in 1976 with the support of a sixty percent government tax incentive, 421 Hudson Street was the largest solar system of its kind in New York City. The system is able to preheat water from 55 degrees to 80 using solar energy, saving money for the building's residents. This system has been working perfectly for over 35 years, paying for itself several times over.
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