Solar Power as an Alternative Energy Source

Solar Energy Power

Solar power is the process of using the light from sun and turning it into an energy source. It has become a reliable alternative to fossil fuel power sources in rural and remote areas. It is being used in outer space, and is becoming more commonly used in homes, as lighting, in architectural projects, in businesses and cooking. It is becoming even more popular in urban areas as the cost of fossil fuel continues to rise. Solar panels are designed to collect and store the warming power of the sun.

When solar energy is collected in the solar panels it has to be converted into energy. This can be done by a process called solar thermal application, and involves using the energy from the sun to directly heat air or liquids. The process of photoelectric application involves the use of photovoltaic cells to change the energy into electricity.

Solar power is one of the cleanest forms of energy to be found on the planet, and by harnessing the sun as an alternative energy source to fossil fuels, we do not create any threats to the environment.

However, there are other threats to the environment that may alter our ability to use solar power in the future. Global dimming is another product of man's pollution and global warming. Global dimming diminishes the amount of sunlight that is able to reach the surface of planet Earth.

There are advantages to using solar energy as a safe alternative to fossil fuel for the home. Solar energy is free. It can be used in remote areas where it is difficult to install power plants. The sun is a resource that, hopefully, is not going to be depleted any time soon. Some will say that a disadvantage of using solar power is that it doesn't work at night; however, you can store enough power in batteries to get you through. Often homes will combine both wind and solar power to collect and store enough energy for their own personal use and then sell the excess that they collect back to the utility companies.

Solar Powered Homes

In 1969 a "solar furnace" is constructed in Odeillo, France that features an eight-story parabolic mirror.

In 1973 The University of Delaware builds "Solar One," a PV/thermal hybrid system. Roof-integrated arrays feed surplus power through a special meter to the utility during the day; power is purchased from the utility at night. In addition to providing electricity, the arrays are like flat-plate thermal collectors; fans blow warm air from over the array to heat storage bins.

By 1979, a developer of a condominium project in New Hampshire decided  to bring an environmentally responsive alternative to the market. He designed the building to use solar energy. The solar panels were made of glass, offering a beautify view of the city. Buyers responded very well, leading the developer to design several more similar buildings.
In 1999 the tallest skyscraper built in New York city in the 1990's was completed at 4 Times Square and was the most energy-efficient commercial skyscraper ever to be built using solar panels.

Construction began in 2007 in Boulder Colorado on a project called Solar Row.
It is the first nearly "net zero" solar row home development in Boulder County! The project consisted of thirteen homes that utilized renewable energy sources, mainly solar energy, as well as Green Built design and carefully planned construction to create a home that uses and generates its own energy.  Solar Row focused on utilizing recycled and readily renewable materials for the homes. Standard features included bamboo floors, birch cabinetry and recycled pop bottle carpeting. This was the first solar home development project in the Boulder area.  They were all sold before construction was completed.

Green Home Communities

Solar Community in Wisconsin
Today totally "green communities" are cropping up all over the world. Many of these green communities are located in the United States.

These green communities consist of homes that are self sufficient as they rely on solar and wind power to generate their electricity. Many of the communities grow their own organic food by having composting centers to fertilize their crops and livestock that are all free range animals. The animals are raised for meat and dairy products that are hormone and anti-biotic free.

Legislation is Pushing for Energy Efficient Homes

Some states are pushing for solar powered housing. California officials are proposing half of all new homes built run on solar energy in within ten years. They are pushing for solar homes to prevent further issues with energy crisis. Five years ago utility customers had difficulty paying their electric bills because of the high cost, but  construction companies didn't want to build energy efficient homes because of the high cost.  Officials now want  to give rebates to home builders who agree to install solar panels on new homes. There may be other incentives in the works. Environmental groups are backing  California’s proposal as they feel it will help to encourage other states to follow. It is believed that if other states join in and agree to implement such programs, then the cost of setting up solar power will greatly decrease.

However, many environmental groups aren’t willing to wait around to see what California decides to do. They have taken solar power issues to the legislation. A solar incentive bill has been approved by the Senate. It is still pending with the Assembly Committee. If approved, it will impose that 15% of new homes being built are complete with solar panels beginning in 2010. The goal would be for the rate to increase to 55% with the rate to increase each year by 10%. California is pushing for a more aggressive increase..

The building industry opposes the promotion of solar homes. They have been fighting  against the legislative bill. Even though many building contractors agree that solar homes could lead to economic and atmospheric improvements, they claim that it will add additional cost to the building industry if they have to meet the solar powered home requirements. If Congress is willing to give them monetary incentives to help reduce these costs, the issue could likely be resolved. It is estimated on average that additional solar power equipment to a home will cost $17,000 to $20,000, although the price has been dropping as the demand for solar panels increase.