Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Some Ranting on Solar - Alternatives to Photovoltaics

(I posted this in a different forum -- but since it's MY writing, I claim it as my own *grin*)

Solar doesn't always have to be about the "photovoltaics" (although that always seems to be the *sexy* thing that gets the media hype).

Solar mirrors and solar heat have been used long, long, long before the photovoltaics were even invented.

Parabolic solar collectors aimed at water pipes can create a good steam pressure (aka "head") to run turbines to generate electricity... also, the flat-plate mirrors (sun-tracking mirrors called "heliostats") can be focused on salt-containers and heat-exchange units to create thermal heat to run generators. These can be done on a large scale--like the solar-collecting troughs of Solar-1 plant in Nevada, the heliostats of Solar-1 plant near Barstow, California .. .or the large test facility near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But on a smaller scale, individuals can spray-paint copper-piping with flat-black paint and enclose those pipes into a glass-faced box such that the water flowing through the pipes can either radiate heat into their dwelling or provide hot water for washing.

Yes, we should look into the "industrial-strength-sized" solar concentrating plants for large-scale power generation. But this technology isn't new or even a "breakthrough". This technology (and the underlying concepts) have been used for decades. I'm happy to see that the governments and the research institutions are looking at it again.

Passive solar homes have been around since the 1800's. Tromb walls, clerestory windows, thermal mass, phase-change-materials (PCM), radiative heat exchangers, proper insulation, proper landscaping, -- all of these go a long way to making more energy-efficient homes... but combined with active solar concentrators AND photovoltaics... along with wind and other technologies, you can really squeeze more energy out of highly available sources.

Squidoo lens on Environmental Alternatives
Squidoo lens on "Moving Electrons"


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