About 47 per cent of the energy that the sun releases to
the earth actually reaches the ground. About a third is
reflected directly back into space by the atmosphere. The
time in which solar energy is available, is also the time we
least need it least – daytime. Because the sun’s energy
cannot be stored for use another time, we need to convert
the suns energy into an energy that can be stored.
One possible method of storing solar energy is by
heating water that can be insulated.
The water is heated by
passing it through hollow panels. Black-coated steal plates
are used because dark colours absorb heat more efficiently.
However this method only supplies enough energy for
activities such as washing and bathing. The solar panels
generate “low grade” heat, that is, they generate low
temperatures for the amount of heat needed in a day.
In order to generate “high grade” heat, intense enough
to convert water into high-pressure steam which can then be
used to turn electric generators there must be another
method. The concentrated beams of sunlight are collected in
a device called a solar furnace, which acts on the same
principles as a large magnifying glass.
The solar furnace
takes the sunlight from a large area and by the use of
lenses and mirrors can focus the light into a very small
area. Very elaborate solar furnaces have machines that
angle the mirrors and lenses to the sun all day. This
system can provide sizeable amounts of electricity and
create extremely high temperatures of over 6000 degrees
Solar energy generators are very clean, little waste is
emitted from the generators into the environment. The use
of coal, oil and gasoline is a constant drain, economically
Will solar energy be the wave of the future? Could the
worlds requirement of energy be fulfilled by the
“powerhouse” of our galaxy – the sun? Automobiles in the
future will probably run on solar energy, and houses will
have solar heaters.