About 47 percent of the energy that the sun releases to the earth actually reaches
the ground. About a third is reflected directly back into space by the atmosphere. The
time in which solar energy is available, is also the time we least need it least - daytime.
Because the sun's energy cannot be stored for use another time, we need to convert the
suns energy into an energy that can be stored.
One possible method of storing solar energy is by heating water that can be
insulated. The water is heated by passing it through hollow panels. Black-coated steal
plates are used because dark colors absorb heat more efficiently.
However, this method only supplies enough energy for activities such as washing
and bathing. The solar panels generate "low grade" heat, that is, they generate low
temperatures for the amount of heat needed in a day. In order to generate "high grade"
heat, intense enough to convert water into high-pressure steam which can then be used to
turn electric generators there must be another method.
The concentrated beams of sunlight are collected in a device called a solar furnace,
which acts on the same principles as a large magnifying glass. The solar furnace takes the
sunlight from a large area and by the use of lenses and mirrors can focus the light into a
very small area. Very elaborate solar furnaces have machines that angle the mirrors and
lenses to the sun all day. This system can provide sizable amounts of electricity and create
extremely high temperatures of over 6000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Solar energy generators are very clean, little waste is emitted from the generators
into the environment. The use of coal, oil and gasoline is a constant drain, economically
and environmentally. Will solar energy be the wave of the future? Could the worlds
requirement of energy be fulfilled by the "powerhouse" of our galaxy - the sun?