The Benefits of Wind Energy

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

Wind turbines – white structures with three or more blades which are used to generate electricity from the wind – are one of the most efficient methods of generating renewable energy. This is simple fact, and the continued development and licencing of turbines is further testament to this.

The reason for this general opinion is that, when one views the statistics, wind turbines are powerfully useful. For example, with older energy generation techniques such as using fossil fuels, to generate electricity one must use some of the earth’s natural resources. In the case of fossil fuels, these one day will run out.

Wind turbines have no effect on the earth’s composition and do not need to dig into anything to be able to generate. They take nothing from the earth as an organism, and this makes them a mighty weapon in the battle against climate change.

Wind turbines do not produce any emissions, be it carbon dioxide – the cause of climate change – or other such chemicals which may be harmful. Though the construction of a wind farm or turbine requires electricity and source material, it is estimated it takes a mere nine months for a single wind turbine to ‘pay back’ what is has taken out. What is more, after that initial nine months pay back time, wind turbines do not require anything but the wind to operate.

The biggest benefit of wind turbines, however, is that they take a natural source and make it useful. The wind blows everywhere in the world, and all wind turbines do is take the previously unused kinetic energy of natural weather phenomenon and create usable electricity.

Put simply, the benefits of wind turbines and wind power are overwhelmingly convincing.

The PS10 Tower: The Future of Energy Generation?

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

Just outside of the city of Seville in Spain, one can see a monolith that largely resembles something from the Lord of the Rings. A huge, towering eye stands a 115 meter high tower, looking out over a sea of large, shiny reflective objects. To the innocent bystander it is an odd, or even alarming sight, but what is happening in this small corner of Spain could indeed be the future of energy.

The monolith is in fact a PS10 tower, a technical name for what is essentially a huge solar panel. Like many solar panels, it gathers the sun’s heat and boils water to create steam; this, in turn, creates electricity, which can then be used to power anything from a small town to the oven in your kitchen.

What makes the PS10 Tower different, however, is that it does not just receive sunlight directly from the sun. While it would be effective in doing so, the PS10 Tower looks out over 624 movable mirrors, known as heliostats, all of which are positioned to shine the sun’s rays directly onto the solar panels atop the tower.

If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is – but essentially, what the PS10 Tower generates in power which then becomes electricity is 624 times more powerful than your average solar panel. Thanks to the heliostats bouncing the sun’s rays directly on to its receiving panels, the PS10 is able to create steam to drive a generator at a rate previously unheard of for solar technology.

What’s more, the experiment has proved so successful that a second tower and second bed of heliostats – the PS20 Tower – has now been built. The Spanish have capitalized on their natural resource – blinding sunlight – and used it to create electricity. Even more excitingly, it works. So is are the PS10 and PS20 towers the future of solar energy? They just might be.

Can Solar Panels Work In Winter?

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

When solar energy is touted as one of the natural replacements for the consumable energies of coal and oil, one of the first questions that is always asked is: what will happen in winter? Can solar panels function when there is precious little sunlight?

The simple answer is, yes. Even in winter, most countries experience six to seven hours of daylight, and to an extent this is all a solar panel needs to function. Solar panels, despite the name, do not necessarily need direct, hot sunlight to produce electricity; but what they do need is light. In daytime, some of the sun’s rays are getting through to earth even when it is cold and overcast. Quite simply, if these rays weren’t getting through the cloud cover, it would not appear to be daytime!

Therefore, for as long as it is daytime, solar panels can function and produce electricity to a degree. Temperature is a relatively unimportant consideration in solar panel development; in fact, some experiments have shown that the mechanisms and generation systems of solar panels actually function better when it is colder. All electrical systems slow down somewhat in intense heat – such as trying to use a laptop on a hot day – and the crisper temperatures of winter can allow solar panels to work to their full potential.

While all of the above it is true, it is nevertheless also a fact that the output of solar panels is effected by a lack of daylight – something which is characteristic with winter. One would not get the same effective output on a winter’s day as one would on a summer’s day, and for this reason other energy generation sources are required for the winter months. Thankfully, in most countries winter may decrease the amount of solar output, but the weather changes in a way that is beneficial to other renewable energies – such as tidal or wind power, which may be less effective in the more temperate summer months.

Renewable Energy vs. Fossil Fuels

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Wind And Solar Energy

At present, the vast majority of the world’s energy resources come from the burning and manipulation of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include oil and coal; essentially, generating electricity from already-formed substances found on earth. Most of us have seen gigantic oil rigs towering on the horizon and coal mining is still an important industry for many countries; it is from these industries we get most of our energy and electricity.

However, there is a problem. Fossil fuels such as oil and coal are not sustainable resources; in essence, one day, they will run out. Oil and coal generate over thousands – if not tens of thousands – of years, and humans have been tapping these resources ever since the Industrial Revolutions of the 19th century. While it may sound like scare mongering, one day these fuels will cease to exist.

Various estimates can be found on how much fossil fuel is left, though most scientists agree we have mined over the ‘half way’ point. This is means that the Earth only has around 40% of its total supply of fossil fuels left to give, and it would take millennia to create more naturally.

Therefore, the search for renewable and sustainable energy has become pressing. Various options are being presented, most of which capitalize on the free natural resources of the planet we live on. Wind and solar power are increasingly spoken of as the natural alternatives to fossil fuels, while tidal and water power are also viable alternatives. Whichever method is chosen as the way forward for energy generation, they will need to both viable and sustainable so they can meet the world’s increasing demand for energy.