Energy - Solar

The Oxford Solar House
Photo © DOE ENREL - BP Solar

Utilising solar energy

With an expected lifetime of another five or six billion years or so, the sun is virtually a limitless source of clean energy. The amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface is enough to fulfill total global power consumption many thousands of times over (current estimates (2007) average 10,000 to 15,000 times).

Solar energy can be harnessed directly to provide electricity from photovoltaic (PV) cells, thermal energy from solar collectors to heat water or passively heat appropriately designed buildings (passive solar).

Large-scale generation of electricity from solar power is also a reality. Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is a method of generating electricity from solar energy on a grand scale. Situated in deserts, CSP utilises large arrays of solar-tracking mirrors to convert the sun's energy into steam to drive generators.
See large-scale solar.

Indirectly, the sun also provides:
hydro-power by driving the precipitation cycle,
wind-power by powering the Earth's weather systems
bio-energy by providing the warmth and light essential for plant growth.

The sun also heats the oceans, producing thermal gradients, energy from which can be harnessed by ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) techniques to produce electricity.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Solar energy general information

  • The American Solar Energy Society (ASES)
    A nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the use of solar energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable technologies in the U.S.A. http://www.ases.org/
  • International Solar Energy Society
    ISES has been serving the needs of the renewable energy community since its founding in 1954. A UN-accredited NGO present in more than 50 countries, the Society supports its members in the advancement of renewable energy technology, implementation and education all over the world.www.ises.org
  • The Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society (ANZES)
    Promotes scientific, social and economic development through the environmentally sound utilisation of solar energy. www.anzses.org/
  • Solar Energy Society of Canada Inc.
    Advances the awareness, understanding and use of solar energy in Canada. sesci.ca/
  • Eurosolar - The European Association for Renewable Energy
    Founded in 1988 as the non-profit European Association for Renewable Energies. It regards a total solar energy supply as essential for a sustainable economy. www.eurosolar.de

Solar energy publications

  • Solar Generation IV
    'Solar electricity for over one billion people and two million jobs by 2020' ...a report on PV solar electricity by Greenpeace and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association. Greenpeace Reports: Solar Generation iv
  • Reports on Concentrating Solar Power
    Available from TREC-UK http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/reports.htm
  • Solar Today
    Bi-monthly magazine - published by the American Solar Energy Society, that covers all solar and renewable energy technologies, from photovoltaics to climate-responsive buildings to wind power and biomass. Regular topics include building case studies, energy policy and community-scale projects. Solar Today Magazine

Articles