Energy sources emerge because of economic, environmental or social pressures. In calm periods, investment seems to go into other fields. A quarter a century ago, in 1986 the solar panels that had been installed atop of the white house were literally ripped-off. However, new efforts have been devoted towards the re-birth of more affordable, efficient and appropriate technology to harness the energy provided by the sun.
Solar Thermal Technology
There are two new solar thermal technologies using solar energy to provide heat than directly electricity. Contemporary photovoltaic solar cells harnessed the energy from the sun and do directly convert it into electricity. However, solar thermal technology uses the heat that the sun provides later converted into electricity. This is a technology promising solar energy to go to larger-scale productions.
The SunCatcher Solar thermal system is established at Sandia National Laboratories’ National Solar Thermal Test Facility and was developed by Tessera Solar and built by Stirling Energy Systems. It harnesses solar energy at an efficiency rate of 31.25 percent. It is the most efficient achievement that has been reached using this technology. The 38-foot-wide dishes provide enough heat to run a stirling engine that will be able to produce around 25 KW of electricity. The technology will be used in the largest solar plants ever constructed. In Southern California, the technology will be used to produce 1,600 MW by 2014. The dishes has substantially been enhanced they are both cheaper and lighter than they were before.
Solar Energy Going To Africa
A group of MIT engineering students is trying to facilitate solar thermal technology in Africa. They are engaging in a systematic effort to supply small-scale off-grid solar systems. The team has created a sort of micro-generator, which can produce around 3KW of electricity and also heat some hundred gallons of water per day. The cost of this technology is relatively cheap and can be constructed with auto parts. According Amy Mueller, cofounder of STG International a nonprofit MIT group, there have already been two micro-generators installed in Lesotho. Another micro-generator is about to be installed at Lesotho and this one will be built at a medical clinic to provide lighting and hot water for medical purposes.
These two very fundamental progresses in the field of solar technology are providing necessities such as clean water and electricity in Africa. It is also helping the developed world to cheaply expand the use of solar power.