Essay: Solar Energy

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Solar Energy

The threats posed by our relationship to energy has given rise to some devastating results on a global and a personal scale like human-induced climate change, famine, poverty and cycles of deforestation; all these while on our overzealous appetite search for energy. Global economic, environmental and social pressures are driving the human race to search for a better alternative and renewable source of energy that is also more eco-friendly, reliable and sustainable. Many national governments have stated making energy policies with Solar Energy harnessing as the backbone of these policies. Nations are trying to escape the uncertainties that come with the fact that most fossil fuels have their deposit localized in particulars areas of the earth, a region that is filled with political tensions which affect mostly the supply of the fuels. The amount of pollution caused by these fossil fuels is a big concern that has made people more aware of the need to find a more environmentally friendly energy source. (Solangi, Islamb, Saidura, Rahimb, & Fayazb, 2011)

Solar energy has been used for a long time ever since the prehistoric times where it was used to heat the house, cure food or dry clothes. Its importance in these times was so enormous that many cultures saw the sun as a god while others codified its power in their laws. For example, ancient Romans relied so heavily on solar energy to heat their homes and bathhouses that it was illegal to build a house or dwelling so tall so as to block the sunlight of any neighbor.

The number of environmentalists, scientists, economists, policy experts, and citizens who understand that the world will soon run short of relatively cheap energy is growing rapidly and the realization that an alternative source must be found sooner than later is embedded in each of their minds. Solar energy is the most promising source of energy next in line to solve this need since reliance on a freely available resource that is indigenous and inexhaustible must be very attractive at the moment apart from the fact that it will reduce the current overreliance on fossil fuel, rendering their prices to reduce and stabilize, and its sustainability. Solar energy harvesting will also reduce the already high levels of pollution. This energy does not have any waste products like the greenhouse gases being emitted through the use of either fossil fuels or nuclear energy which is the basis of it being considered by many as the next best option in the attempts of controlling climate change and at the same time lowering the costs of preventing global warming.

Solar energy technologies currently available are either grouped as passive or active. The groups are based on the way these technologies capture, convert and distribute sunlight. The active technology uses photovoltaic panels, pumps and fans to convert sunlight into useful energy that can be used to accomplish other applications like heating water to be used for bathing, producing heat for industrial melting or producing electricity directly or through turning steam turbines. Passive involves designing spaces that naturally circulate air and referencing the position of a building to the sun (Bradford, 2006).

Through passive solar technologies sunlight has influenced the way architects design houses since time in memorial which is evidenced by the Greek buildings which were constructed facing south in order to be warm and provide light. In recent times, greenhouses are a great example of passive technology because it targets to optimize the capture of sunlight. The light is converted to heat which favors productivity of plants even during offseason or in a climate not favorable to the particular crop.

(Bradford, 2006).

Other energy resources

There many different types of energy resources on planet earth, some being renewable and others non-renewable. The terms renewable energy and alternative energy are freely interchangeable because alternative energy simply means any energy source apart from the traditional fossil fuels. The renewable energy sources include:

a) Biofuels -- are liquid fuels obtained directly from biomass and are seen as the green alternative to petrol and diesel. They are seen as the best green energy alternative for third world countries. Biofuels do not cause pollution and unlike fossil fuel are absorbed by the environment in case of spillage. They are biodegradable, nontoxic and free of aromatic hydrocarbons. The carbon dioxide they release during combustion does not add to the average composition of carbon in the atmosphere because it is readily used up by plants for photosynthesis (Reyes, 2007). There are several countries that have seriously undertaken to exploit this type of renewable energy like Brazil and the Philippines. However, for this to be a success it should not interfere with food security of the producing areas since the plants used to produce the biomass converted into biofuel may be planted on lands originally allocated to farming.

b) Biomass -- this is the biological matter that builds living things. Through direct combustion it is used to produce electricity, by turning turbines, or heat. In an indirect method, it is converted to liquid fuel use to run engines.

c) Geothermal -- this is energy that is generated and also stored in the earth's core. In hot springs, thermal energy has been used for bathing. However, it is predominantly known for the generation of electricity. It is environmentally friendly, cost effective, reliable and sustainable. It has the disadvantage of being restricted to area around tectonic plate activity (for example, the rift valley in Africa).

d) Hydroelectricity -- energy produced from turbines being turned through the action of accelerating water, mostly rivers or waterfalls. This energy is not very reliable and sustainable as production may fall victim to harsh environmental conditions like drought, which has led to power rationing in most developing and third world countries resulting in huge losses to business ventures.

e) Wave power -- is mostly restricted to the oceans and seas where the strength and frequency of waves is highest. The tidal waves are used to turn turbines in the same concept used in hydroelectric power generation. Wave power devices derive from energy from the surface motion of waves or from the fluctuations in pressure at different levels of ocean water below the sea.

f) Wind power -- this involves the conversion of wind energy into useful energy through the use of wind turbines (make electricity) and wind pumps (pumping water). Wind power is generated due to differences in pressure regions, earth rotation and irregular nature of the earth surfaces. This type of energy has been in use for a very long time now with the Babylonians using it to irrigate their farms and also sailors in pre-historic times using winds power to drive the boats and ships.

The above energy sources are termed renewable because they are naturally and constantly replenished by the sunlight, except geothermal and tidal wave. This stresses the importance of the sun as an energy resource. These types of energy are reliable and are available in plenty. It is believed they will become cheap and more accessible once the infrastructure and technologies improve. They are preferred to non-renewable sources because they don't involve some activities that can be looked at as dangerous which are a big part of obtaining the coals, oil and gases. These include activities like mining and drilling, therefore, it is a safer way of obtaining energy.

Since these renewable sources are available within the confines of a nation, the reliance on importation of energy will surely decrease. The amount of strain put on the economy of most countries due to high levels of importation of oil and coal will be lessened as producing energy will increase energy security within their borders.

Renewable energy has also the advantage that it does not emit gases that cause various problems both to the human health and the climate. The waste products from the generation of energy through renewable sources are freely safe or decompose freely, like the plant wastes obtain during production of biofuels.

The non- renewable energy resources are widely spread and in use throughout the world and most of them are the reasons for the relentless continued search for green forms of energy since they are the villains judged with ever changing climate patterns due to their exudes which cause every kind of pollution know to man. They include:

a) Fossil fuels -- they include coal, oil and gas. They are formed through the natural process of anaerobic decomposition of biomass. These fuels have been are loyal servant to our species as they have driven the revolution and urbanization process since their discovery. However, they haven't been all beneficial since through their use a number of harmful greenhouse gases are produced which have continuously destroyed the ozone layer, protecting the earth from the harmful, cancerous rays of the sun. The gases have caused climate change due to the warming of the globe. (Solangi, Islamb, Saidura, Rahimb, & Fayazb, 2011)

b) Nuclear energy -- is formed as a result of changes called nuclear… [END OF PREVIEW]

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