Versatile solar power

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By Karl G. Ombion

The Essentials

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

IN MY group’s study of different renewable energy, solar comes out to have the most applications, longer lifespan, versatile and practically less maintenance.

The solar energy system is quite simple. It starts from the photovoltaic (PV) panel or simply solar panel made up of highly conductive silicon cells. When solar energy, direct heat or luminous light strikes the PV cell, it immediately produces electron and converted to direct current (DC). The direct current channels through the attached cable to the charge controller that regulates the input on the battery to prevent overcharging.

The battery then supplies with average 12 volts nominal output up to 24 volts at peak power to all the electrical facilities in the house or a building. If the house or building has 220 volt facilities like computer, fan, television, airconditioner, refrigerator, the supply power from the battery will pass through an appropriate inverter device that convert 12 Volts direct current (DC) to 220-240 volts alternating current (AC).


The same principle is applied to other renewable energy.

In wind power, we just replace PV panel with blades and a motor. The required wind speed rotates the blade and then runs the motor that produces DC electricity.

In hydro power, the volume and fall of water will run the turbine and then produce the DC electricity.

In biomass power, wastes from livestock, byproducts of agricultural and commercial crops, and from human, are captured and processed to produce methane gas. The gas can be converted to energy, either for cooking fuel or DC electricity.

However, of the different types of renewable energy, solar technology has higher adaptability and more applications. It is applicable in all areas with sunlight; energy source is free; unlimited supply especially daytime operations; operational even in bad weather conditions; quiet and does not produce unwanted sound; no moving parts to maintain; environment friendly; easy and quick to install; installable in any space (roof or ground) provided no obstruction from sunlight; practically no maintenance; applicable for household, farm, resort, sports arena, commercial buildings and small industrial plants. Quality PV panel like the one manufactured by the German engineering has an average lifespan of thirty years.

Wind technology can produce the same power as solar but it is usable only in areas where there is a sufficient or constant wind speed, starting from 8 miles per hour. The cost is higher, and so its maintenance because of its moving parts.

Hydropower technology has the same character as the wind technology. It can be used only in areas where there is steady flowing water, or sufficient water volume to generate a force necessary to run the turbines.

Biomass is probably the next to solar because of the sufficient wastes everywhere, especially livestocks and human wastes. The systems technology to generate biogas is already available and relatively cheaper.

The only “disadvantage” of solar power is its high initial cost. But return on investment is usually achieved on the third to fifth year. Once installed, the owner is freed of one of its heaviest burdens, monthly electricity bill.

Today, solar power can be used practically in everywhere and anything, like electrification, generation of water, water purification, running vehicle, fastcraft, industrial machine, among others.

The global projection is that solar cost will drop significantly in the next 5-10 years because of continuous innovations in the systems, and the fast growing number of people in the world using solar energy.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 26, 2011.


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