Electricity of the 21st century.
Do you know how your electricity is generated? For a long time I kind of knew, but was too lazy to actually ask my father, who is a physicist, what exactly is going on in the power plant. Now it boggles me to live with the fact that in our modern time when an all-inclusive communication and Internet device (iPhone, BlackBerry, etc.) is smaller than a deck of cards, we still use 19th century technology and basic principles to generate our electricity. Once you actually give this idea a thought, it becomes a shocking notion that our best minds have not been able to create a better way to create electrical power than to burn coal and natural gas – two most commonly used sources of energy to create electricity.
Just in case you were wandering, coal or gas is BURNED to heat up water which then becomes hot steam and drives the turbines. This is a basic principle and the actual process is more complicated, but even the “sophisticated” nuclear power plants work in similar manner.
Note: I did know that electricity can be generated in the old fashioned way, but I actually thought that there was some kind of a mechanism to directly convert energy stored in gas / coal / oil directly “into” electricity, instead of emulating the old steam-engine – oops… It is a shame that our 21st century society is still burning fossil fuels to make the turbine spin.
Aside from the fact that we get our electricity the same way as before WW I, natural gas, oil and especially coal are extremely dirty fuels, emitting dangerous pollutants, which affect our environment in such a drastic way that just a couple of generations from today, our children may not be able to enjoy the outdoors the same way we can today. I won’t even start talking about climate change and global warming. On top of everything mentioned above, humanity is quickly approaching a world-wide energy crisis. Our oil reserves are getting depleted, and if you believe in “Peak Oil” theory, we are about to approach the peak of the curve, which means that oil will continue to become more scarce and prices will keep on rising.
Although coal is very abundant, it is also becoming more expensive to mine, and delivery once again involves burning petroleum based fuels, creating more and more pollution. It is obvious to most intelligent people (except those heavily invested in oil, coal, cars, etc.) that we need a clean, renewable source of energy. Despite what may seem like rhetoric about renewables, I do honestly believe that this is the way we will power our world. However, the renewable energy must be affordable and/or competitive with current sources of energy.
So what is the answer – what is a modern and clean way to generate electricity? Well, there are a few, and the most popular ones are Wind and Solar. My personal favorite is Solar and here is why.
Wind Turbines require lots of open space and lots of (you guessed it) wind to work effectively. Although wind is a great source of renewable energy, and unlike solar can work at night, it is not “customizable” or adaptable for the urban environment. There is just not enough space or wind in the city.
Solar on the other hand works just as well in city as in the country side. All you need is southern exposure with no or minimal shading. Solar can be installed on a roof of a sky-scraper, on the ground or even on a roof of a car. Solar is also a scalable system, and you can add or remove PV panels and/or inverters at any time. The bottom line is that solar photo-voltaic power generation is much more practical, and can be implemented where that power is needed. Besides that, both ways of getting “free” electric power from renewable sources are great. Given the notion that solar is more practical and flexible, lets get to the solar PV systems design and implementation.
Getting solar for your home or business.
Despite all the positive aspects of solar, it is expensive – VERY expensive. Additionally, not every site is suitable for a solar system installation. Therefore, if and when you decide to get into solar, the system must be designed and installed to operate at maximum efficiency, to offset its high costs and speed up the pay-off time.
Step 1: Gathering information about a perspective site for the solar project, and how much solar electricity you will need.
As mentioned before, the first step in determining if a solar system should be installed, a basic site survey must be perfored. Sinse most solar PV systems are installed on roof tops, the basic requirements for a site survey ar as follows:
- The roof plane where the solar system would be installed must have a southern exposure with some variations to the east and west. You can figure this out with a simple compas.
- There should be no shading from trees and surrounding buildings and structures to achieve the highest sun light exposure. This gets tricky, as the sun has a different angle to the earth during winter and summer months. Thus, even in the winter, when the sun is at its lowest point, solar panels should have unobstructed exposure to it. The best way to determine where your shading is throughout the year is to use a special tool called “pathfinder”
Written by Leo - roofer with a vision. Follow Leo on Google+