With the deterioration of the ecological situation on our planet, as well as the unreasonable dependence on traditional energy sources, scientists began to study and evaluate the energy potential of natural phenomena and gradually found ways to use them. The search resulted in so-called alternative sources of energy – any alternative to fossil fuels – that is, the energy of the sun, wind, water, etc., which became available to humanity.
One of the most promising options for the development of alternative energy in the industrial, commercial and private sectors is solar power. To obtain solar energy, special stations have been set up to convert solar energy into electricity.
It so happens that much of the sun’s radiation is scattered and absorbed by the atmosphere, especially by clouds, and only 1/3 is able to reach the earth’s surface. All in all, the energy emitted by the sun is 5 billion times greater than that of the Earth. But, as the calculations show, even such an “inconspicuous” value is 1,600 times the energy that all other sources put together.
As history shows, solar potential was discovered by humans much earlier than we could have imagined. The sun has always been the object of love and worship for mankind, it has given rise to many religions, cults, traditions and works of art. Worship of the sun and sun gods has been discovered in all parts of the world since time immemorial. For example, in Upper Egypt, whose culture dates back to the fourth millennium BC, it was believed that the Pharaohs were descended from the Sun-God, Ra.
Realizing that solar energy was not only a favorable climate for the existence of civilization, people began to send energy to their service: they dried the skin of animals from which they made clothes, made furniture and vessels; dried food for long-term storage; salt was obtained from water by evaporation; received fire by focusing the sun’s rays through the glass lenses.
Gradually, people have been refining their tools and inventing new ways to use solar radiation for many useful purposes. Thus, in the VI century BC. The city of Babylon invented a sundial, which was later used in Greece and later in Rome. It is also known that in 212 BC. The priests, by means of concentrated sunlight, lit the sacred fire in the temples.
It is also worth mentioning the prominent Italian inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci, who in 1515 made one of the first plans for the use of the sun’s energy in industry. In his notebooks there are drawings of several projects of a giant parabolic mirror, “to provide any boiler room in the factory with heat.”
Leonardo da Vinci and a fragment of his notebooks
Less than 100 years later, in 1600, the first solar-powered solar-powered engine was launched in France and was used to pump water. At the end of the 18th century, the first solar furnace was created, and in 1767 the world’s first solar collector appeared. Well-known astronomer John Herschel used it for cooking during an expedition to South Africa in the 1830s.
A. Lavoisier’s Solar Furnace
In the United States, the development of solar energy began after the Civil War. During their famous move to the West, American pioneers left the water in black vessels all day, and at the end of the day, they had hot water to cook dinner. The first American scientist in the field of solar energy is the engineer John Erickson, who in 1833 built a solar air engine with a parabolic cylinder concentrator. In 1866, Frenchman A. Musho built several large solar concentrators in Algeria and used them to distill water and drive pumps. Subsequently, a solar cooking stove (1878) appeared, in which 0.5 kg of meat could be cooked in 20 minutes. In addition, in Moscow, the process of melting metals by solar energy, focused by a paraboloid mirror, in the focus of which the temperature exceeded 3000 ° C.
The principle of operation of modern solar power plants was initiated by the French scientist Alexander-Edmond Becquerel. From 1839 to 1841 he published studies of the solar spectrum and electric light. However, it came to practice only in 1873, when Englishman Willoughby Smith noticed that the chemical element of selenium served as a photoconductor. Subsequently, in 1883, the American scientist Charles Fritts created the first photocell based on this research. He covered the selenium with gold, which produced renewable electricity under the influence of light. The efficiency ratio was 1%, which is 15 times less than in today’s panels.
However, to create a more powerful solar panel, you need to be fully aware of the phenomenon of photo effect. In 1888-1890, this question was explored in parallel by two scientists – German Heinrich Hertz and Russian Alexander Stoletov. However, the photo effect was explained in 1905 by the famous scientist Albert Einstein. For this, in 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. The scientist was able to explain the dependence of the velocity of the broken electrons on the frequency of light and derived an important formula.
The first experimental attempts to produce solar energy using photovoltaic cells began in the 1950s, and by 1958 they had been fully used by NASA in space.
Solar panels in Earth orbit
But in terrestrial conditions, the development of solar energy was fueled by the energy crisis, when the problem of minerals exhaustion came before the world. In the 1970s, interest and demand in energy policy and energy conservation increased in developed countries. These phenomena caused the rise in oil prices, the reduction of its supplies and, as a result, the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 and the 1979 Iran crisis. These factors have given impetus to the development of renewable energy (RES): sun, water, buckets, biomass energy and geothermal energy. However, as oil prices plummeted, interest in new energy sources faded away.
Over the years, the situation changed again when humanity realized that the ecological situation of the entire planet was in danger. The rapid combustion of fossil fuels has made and continues to make a significant contribution to global warming processes, and therefore an alternative has to be sought. In addition, countries wanted to minimize their energy dependence on leading oil and gas giants.
In the 1990s, a number of important documents were signed that obliged developed and transitional economies to reduce or stabilize greenhouse gas emissions to a climate safe level.
The first to embark on the green energy path were the United States, which introduced the green tariff back in 1978. They were followed by Germany, which provided funds for the development of new energy technologies, as well as seriously engaged in the creation of a legislative framework that stimulated the development of RES. Today, Germany produces 30% of its electricity from RES. Ukraine, however, embarked on a path of solar energy development, at the legislative level, in 2009.
Today, solar panels are used in different industries and in different ways, here are the most interesting ones:
The development of renewable energy is growing rapidly and will continue to grow, even in the current context of declining oil prices, as its main drivers are long-term. Today, even oil countries have set themselves the goal of increasing the share of RES in their energy balance.
The world is consciously moving in the only right direction to save our planet. Global warming issues and ways to solve them are discussed at the highest levels. The last key event that ended 2015 was the signing of 196 international environmental agreements at the Paris Climate Summit. The highest goal in this document is the complete abandonment of traditional fuels in the second half of the 21st century.
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With the deterioration of the ecological situation on our planet, as well as the unreasonable dependence on traditional energy sources, scientists began to study and evaluate the energy potential of natural phenomena and gradually found ways to use them. The search resulted in so-called alternative sources of energy – any alternative to fossil fuels – […]