What’s Next: Harvesting solar energy in deserts

Molten Rice solar tower

Solar energy is fast becoming a cheap and viable alternative to fossil fuels. With the high prices of fossil fuel and a diminishing stock of fossil fuel that is being pumped out to meet the never ending demand for fuel, it is becoming increasingly important that we look at an alternative that is sustainable.

One best alternative to fossil fuel today is solar energy. Solar energy is fast becoming a cheap and viable alternative to fossil fuels due to its abundance and lower costs. Deserts have some of the most magnificent ecosystems in the world and due to their geographic location have an abundance of solar energy that can be harvested. The solar energy that is harvested from these deserts, can be converted into electrical energy or power, which can then be used as a cheaper alternative to the conventional sources of energy like fossil fuel or nuclear power. The use of renewable source of energy not only keeps the environment clean but it can also produce other sources of energy in abundance. Desert regions are abundant in inexhaustible sources of solar energy and water and can offer a huge potential in socio-economic growth.

Let’s take a look at how we can harvest solar energy easily from the deserts.

Desertec Solar Power Project Solar radiation is the primary source of solar energy. As the deserts surface at times may be shallow or steep, some of the solar radiation that hits the desert surface may be lost, however, a majority of the radiation can still be collected using equipments like solar panels. The technology used to tap solar energy can be classified either as active or passive energy collection, this classification depends on the method used to tap and then convert the energy from the sun.

2. The solar radiation from the sun is a great source of renewable energy that is easily available in abundance. The heat and light of the sun can be tapped by people using various techniques and technologies that are available today. The two main techniques are

a. Active solar technique: In this method of tapping solar energy, we use equipment called solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic cells to tap solar energy from the sun.

b. Passive solar technique: In this method of tapping solar energy, a location that has direct sunlight is selected to capture solar radiation using thermal equipment.

Sahara desert

The sun-baked deserts are mostly uninhabited and barren making it easy to set up a solar power plant there. The climatic condition of the deserts also plays an important role as they are well suited for setting up these solar energy plants. These solar power projects that are set up in the desert not only combat shortfall in electricity production, but also create employment for the local population.

The energy generated in the solar power plants is distributed in different areas, however at times a part of this energy can be lost during transmission, which can be seen as a disadvantage of this method of producing power.

In the solar power plants, the radiations from the sun is converted into heat and is then stored in thermal storage units or devices. This heat is then used to convert water to steam, which is then used to drive turbines that generate power. As the amount of energy generated increases, it can be used to fill shortfalls in various areas, thus helping to bring down the cost of power.

Solar dishApart from power generation, solar energy can also be used for household purposes to power household appliances like solar water heaters, solar cookers, and other appliances. The energy obtained from the sun is not just clean and ecofriendly but is also cost effective and can be easily used to carry out regular household work like cooking, heating etc.

Today we have many technologies that are available to capture solar energy and use it for power generation. Some of these devices like the parabolic dish, or trough etc. can be used for industrial as well as commercial purposes. Solar furnaces and ponds can also be used for the processing of the tapped solar energy. Solar cookers set up in the desert can be used not only for cooking but also other activities like pasteurization of milk etc.

Solar energy can also be used to provide drinking water in desert. Distillation projects have been set up in these areas that convert saline water into potable water. Solar energy is also being used to illuminate houses and industrial establishments across the globe. Hybrid solar lighting is a technique in which solar heat tracking is done with the help of focusing mirrors and it is transmitted inside the building with the help of optical fibers to provide conventional lightening.

Solar power projects developed in the deserts are beneficial not only for providing employment to the people in desert but is beneficial in economic development of the country as well.

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