Introduction to Solar Energy

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					Introduction to
 Solar Energy
         An overview of

On July 4, 1997, the Pathfinder spacecraft bounced
    to a stop on Mars. The next day, the rover
  Sojourner rolled out of one of the lander petals
 onto the surface of the planet to begin its mission
                   of exploration.


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Sojourner was able to move around the planet and
examine rocks like this one named “Yogi” – located
20 feet from the Pathfinder lander – thanks to
the power generated by the solar panel on its


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Dramatic as this was, it was just one use
      of solar energy.

 To many students, exciting projects like
 this are what solar energy is all about.

 But there really is much more to solar
 energy technologies, how they are being
 used, and how they impact our lives today.
 This presentation will introduce you to the
 entire field of solar energy.


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   Let’s begin our overview of
     solar energy by asking:
What do you see here?
                                    Take a close look –
                                   is this the profile of a
                                   beautiful young lady,
                                   or the face of an ugly,
                                   old woman?

                                  They’re both here, but for
                                  a variety of reasons that
                                  make up your own
                                  individual psychological
                                  make-up, some of you see
                                  one woman, some the
                                  other.                       5

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When people think of solar
 energy, the same thing often
 happens. Some see it as
 something for the future,
 others see it as something
 that is here today.

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If you think solar energy is something
     to be used in the future . . .
                                you may be picturing
                                  something like this
                                  solar array used by
                                  the space shuttle to
                                  provide for power
                                  needs in outer space.
                                  There are people who
                                  think that solar
                                  energy is something
                                  not quite down-to-
                                  earth and not ready
                                  to use today.


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    However, there are other people who think of
solar energy as something that’s been around for a
                    long time.

   Solar collector for
   heating water

  A home in California in 1906                       8

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For hundreds of years, people have wanted to harness
 the sun’s power for weapons, heating, and many other
uses to make their lives more comfortable.


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Actually, the first solar water heating
 collector appears to have been built
 in the 18th Century by a Swiss
 scientist who constructed a simple
 wooden box with a glass top and a
 black base. It trapped solar energy,
 and the collector reached a
 temperature of 190 degrees

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   So which view of solar energy
  -- for the future or for today –
             is correct?
Probably a little of both.

Solar energy will certainly play an important
  role in the future energy needs of our
  planet, but it’s also here today and ready
  for hundreds of uses in homes, businesses,
  and industry.


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   The sun is an inexhaustible power
supply. It brings enough energy to our
 planet every single day to meet a full
year’s worth of energy for everyone on

And during the past century – back to 1891,
 in fact, when the first solar collector was
 manufactured in the United States, U.S.
 industry has developed a variety of
 products that have proven both reliable
 and cost-effective in meeting all kinds of
 energy needs.

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   The batteries in this solar-powered light in a
remote part of Key West, Florida, are charged by
the sun during the day to provide power for street
                 lighting at night.


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                       But to many
                       people, solar power
                       today means just
                       watches and other
                       simple home
                       products like this
                       lantern that use
                       solar power
                       instead of
                       electricity to
                       charge the

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They don’t realize that millions of
 people around the world use
 solar energy because it is the
 only available, reliable power
 source for many of their basic
 needs such as lighting and water

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Meanwhile, do-it-yourselfers
 have long tried to build their
 own solar systems to take
 advantage of the free power
 provided by the sun . . .


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The owner of a small laundry in northern Florida
tried to build his own concentrating system for
water heating. (We don’t know if the sign in the
  background was put up before or after this
          homemade system was built.)


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But we do know that growing public concern
     about environmental problems . . .


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 including global warming, acid rain and toxic air
emissions, has in recent years turned a great deal
  of attention to environmentally friendly solar
                  energy systems.


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The nonrenewable sources we use
 today – including coal, oil, kerosene,
 diesel, propane and natural gas – are
 all limited in availability, and are also
 partly to blame


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 Meanwhile, there is one energy source that is free
and inexhaustible. It’s like a giant nuclear reactor –
   only this one is located 93 million miles away.


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                               It’s not uncommon
                               around the world to
                               see solar systems
                               used along with the
                               traditional ways of
                               life to become an
                               integral part of
                               people’s lives.


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The house of the future?

                                       This zero-energy
                                        house in the
                                        Netherlands has
                                        30m2 of PV panels
                                        for power
                                        generation and
                                        12m2 of solar
                                        collectors for
                                        water and space


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No matter what the future will be like, one thing is
for certain: some type of energy will be needed to
                    power it.


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        What will that energy source be?

The answer ought to be obvious.

It’s been up there all the time.                  25

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     Discussion Questions
• Why do you think solar energy is not used
  more today?
• Do you think governments should adopt
  measures to use more solar energy in the
  future, or rely on fossil fuels as long as
  they are available?
• What are some of the economic, social,
  and environmental issues involved in the
  use of solar energy?

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