The Solar Power Timeline

The Truth About Solar Efficiency

Everyone has heard about the benefits of solar power in terms of environmental conservation and lessening our dependence on imported fossil fuel. But these are both concepts that apply on a grand scale. It's very hard to equate what this means to an individual. We have to examine the past, present, and future of solar energy, in order to see that there is huge promise for the future of solar energy.
I, for one, could not have begun to tell you what the hard facts were in relation to solar power until I started digging. It turns out that what we hear about solar energy is just the tip of the iceberg. Which are disappearing, I might add, to the tune of 20% during the summer of 2008.

A Brief History

Before we go exploring the ins and outs of solar energy, let's take a look at how this force of nature has evolved over the centuries.

Solar technology isn't new. It probably started some time in the 7th Century B.C., when people learned how to use glass and sunlight to light a fire. There is some evidence that ancient cultures across the globe have used glass and polished metals to concentrate the heat and light of the sun. This concept has been around so long that the Justinian Code of 6th Century A.D. decreed that every individual had "Sun Rights".

Skip ahead several hundred years and you will find documentation detailing the construction and use of equipment that harnesses the heat and power of the sun.

Solar Power Today

Now that we know where we've been, let's look at where we are.

Right now, all across our planet, governments and organizations are installing solar panels and contributing funds to further research into a renewable energy source that is hoped to rival conventional energy in the next decade.

In the future, we can look forward to more solar energy homes and cars that perform up to the standards we expect from traditional fuel sources. Right this very moment I am living in a house that has solar panels to heat my water, and it does get very hot. I do, however, worry about having hot water at 2 a.m. Not that I take showers very often at that hour, but a writer's work isn't always done when the sun sets.

Solar Timeline

The following timeline for solar energy from the U.S. Department of Energy, lists the milestones in the historical development of solar technology from the 7th Century B.C. to now.

* 700 B.C.
A magnifying glass is used to concentrate the sun's rays on a fuel and light a fire for light, warmth, and cooking.

* 300 B.C.
Greeks and Romans use mirrors to light torches for religious purposes.

* 200 B.C.
As early as 212 B.C., Greek scientist Archimedes makes use of the reflective properties of bronze shields to focus sunlight and set fire to Rome's wooden ships, which were besieging Syracuse. (Although there is no proof that this actually happened, the Greek navy recreated the experiment in 1973 and successfully set fire to a wooden boat 50 meters away.)

* 20 A.D.
The Chinese report using mirrors to light torches for religious purposes.

* 100 to 400 A.D.
In the first to the fourth centuries, Roman bath houses are built with large, south-facing windows to let in the sun's warmth.

* 600 A.D.
Sunrooms on houses and public buildings are so common that the Justinian Code establishes "sun rights" to ensure that a building has access to the sun.

* 1300 A.D.
In North America, the ancestors of Pueblo people known as Anasazi build south-facing cliff dwellings that capture the warmth of the winter sun.

* 1700 to 1900 A.D.
Solar contraptions such as photovoltaic fiber, solar cells, and solar steam engines are invented. Eventually a water heater is power by solar electricity.

* 1900s
Solar technology improved thousands of times over, with a vast array of solar materials and solar collectors being constructed and implemented all over the world. Entire towns are powered by solar energy by the year 2000. Buildings are constructed with photovoltaic glass and green roofs, and are self-sustainable thanks to the advancements is solar power conversion.

* 2000s
Houses are powered with residential solar power systems sold in Home Depot, and NASA builds rockets and planes powered entirely by solar energy. Solar power is regarded as an inefficient possible solution to the upcoming oil issue.

* The Future
Within 10 years, continued advances in solar technology will allow us to generate all the electricity needed to power the entire US, and photovoltaic power will be competitive in price with traditional sources of electricity.

Solar electricity will be used in an electrolysis process that separates the hydrogen and oxygen in water so the hydrogen can be used in fuel cells for transportation and in buildings. 

Pros and Cons of Solar Power

So this is where we must think about and examine the ups and downs of solar power.

* First, the sun is free. Once you pay for your solar panels, you are done paying to power your home. Conversely, the sun does take a hiatus. Even so, you can switch to battery power to take up the slack if you want.

* Second, if you have a system that produces more energy than you use, you can sell the excess energy to the utility company. But that usually requires you to live in a very sunny climate.

* Third, the cost of maintenance is very low. Since it is just a flat panel that doesn't move, you don't have to worry very much about mechanical malfunctions. Unfortunately, the initial cost of these panels can be very expensive and serves as a deterrent to buying.

I hope that these facts encourage you to look to the future of energy production. Environmental conservation is everyone's responsibility. We all do what we can. Hopefully sometime soon it will be more cost effective. We can scarce afford to lose the only habitable planet we have and some species, like the polar bear, are already losing.

The Energy Superstore was developed with a singular purpose: to enable residential, business and industrial customers to save energy in the most efficient and cost effective ways possible. With over 40 years of experience, we provide many tools including energy audits, products, and recommendations. Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFLs) and Alternative Energy Advice From Your Energy Saving Superstore

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