Man has harnessed heat and light from the sun from time immemorial. A fresh fillip has been given to the importance of harnessing solar energy for human needs due to the necessity of going green to preserve our ecosystem. An extra effort is now been made to develop renewable and sustainable power sources. Solar energy can make valuable contribution to fulfill the ever increase need of energy. The development of efficient, clean and affordable solar energy technologies will hugely benefit us. Initial cost of using solar energy using equipments is a little high, but its long term gains are many. Let’s see some of the uses of solar energy which will benefit us in our day to day life.
- Heating water at our homes
Solar energy can be harnessed to heat water at our homes. Plate or tube collectors harness solar energy to heat water up to 60O C.
- Heating swimming pools
Swimming pools are a craze for both children and grownups in summers. But in winters swimming becomes a problem due to cold water.Solar blankets or solar hot water systems can be used to heat swimming pools, and everyone can enjoy swimming throughout the year.
- Heating or cooling our homes
Heating cooling and ventilation consumes a lot of energy. By using thermal mass materials such as stone, cement, and water, heat from the sun can be stored to warm the houses, as well as planting trees at correct location , and taking advantage of their shadow can keep the houses cold. A solar chimney uses convection current of air to keep the house well ventilated.
Box cooker are the simplest solar cookers to focus solar heat and cook food. Solar reflector system is used in large kitchens worldwide.
Solar powered car are now being developed. Boats and ships are also been made which can use solar power. Vast Ocean with open sky is best suited to harness solar energy. The sun 21 catamaran crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the winter of 2006-2007. Now technology is being developed to fly planes using solar power.
- Production of electricity
Sunlight can be used to produce solar power. A Photovoltaic cell or solar cell converts light into electric current. It uses photoelectric effect. Using lenses and mirrors to focus large area of sunlight into a small beam, and then converting it into electric current using photovoltaic cells is called concentrated solar power system or CSP. These can be connected to the electricity grid.
- Transportation signaling
Solar energy is now used for transportation signaling in road traffic signals as well as in lighthouses, and aircraft warning light signals.
- Street lighting
The photovoltaic panels are mounted on a raised structure and are used to provide street light. Most solar panels turn off automatically by sensing outdoor light. They can provide light throughout the night and many can provide light even if the sun light is not available for a few days.
- In large commercial buildings- In large buildings, roof area can be used for photovoltaic modules. These can be used to light the building. With continuous dropping of prices of photovoltaic cells, they are fast becoming popular. In large buildings with flat roofs and big walls, solar energy can be harnesses and used to provide electricity. Moreover by using natural light to illuminate the building during day by intelligently designing the building, a lot of cost and energy can be conserved. To get natural light, designs need careful selection of window types, their size and orientation.