Solar energy | Wikipedia audio article

Solar energy | Wikipedia audio article


Solar energy is radiant light and heat from
the Sun that is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating,
photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, solar architecture, molten salt power plants and
artificial photosynthesis.It is an important source of renewable energy and its technologies
are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on how they
capture and distribute solar energy or convert it into solar power. Active solar techniques
include the use of photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power and solar water heating to harness
the energy. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting
materials with favorable thermal mass or light-dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally
circulate air. The large magnitude of solar energy available
makes it a highly appealing source of electricity. The United Nations Development Programme in
its 2000 World Energy Assessment found that the annual potential of solar energy was 1,575–49,837
exajoules (EJ). This is several times larger than the total world energy consumption, which
was 559.8 EJ in 2012.In 2011, the International Energy Agency said that “the development of
affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term
benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous,
inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution,
lower the costs of mitigating global warming, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise.
These advantages are global. Hence the additional costs of the incentives for early deployment
should be considered learning investments; they must be wisely spent and need to be widely
shared”.==Potential==The Earth receives 174 petawatts (PW) of incoming
solar radiation (insolation) at the upper atmosphere. Approximately 30% is reflected
back to space while the rest is absorbed by clouds, oceans and land masses. The spectrum
of solar light at the Earth’s surface is mostly spread across the visible and near-infrared
ranges with a small part in the near-ultraviolet. Most of the world’s population live in areas
with insolation levels of 150–300 watts/m², or 3.5–7.0 kWh/m² per day.Solar radiation
is absorbed by the Earth’s land surface, oceans – which cover about 71% of the globe – and
atmosphere. Warm air containing evaporated water from the oceans rises, causing atmospheric
circulation or convection. When the air reaches a high altitude, where the temperature is
low, water vapor condenses into clouds, which rain onto the Earth’s surface, completing
the water cycle. The latent heat of water condensation amplifies convection, producing
atmospheric phenomena such as wind, cyclones and anti-cyclones. Sunlight absorbed by the
oceans and land masses keeps the surface at an average temperature of 14 °C. By photosynthesis,
green plants convert solar energy into chemically stored energy, which produces food, wood and
the biomass from which fossil fuels are derived.The total solar energy absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere,
oceans and land masses is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. In 2002, this was
more energy in one hour than the world used in one year. Photosynthesis captures approximately
3,000 EJ per year in biomass. The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet
is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all
of the Earth’s non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium
combined, The potential solar energy that could be used
by humans differs from the amount of solar energy present near the surface of the planet
because factors such as geography, time variation, cloud cover, and the land available to humans
limit the amount of solar energy that we can acquire.
Geography affects solar energy potential because areas that are closer to the equator have
a greater amount of solar radiation. However, the use of photovoltaics that can follow the
position of the sun can significantly increase the solar energy potential in areas that are
farther from the equator. Time variation effects the potential of solar energy because during
the nighttime there is little solar radiation on the surface of the Earth for solar panels
to absorb. This limits the amount of energy that solar panels can absorb in one day. Cloud
cover can affect the potential of solar panels because clouds block incoming light from the
sun and reduce the light available for solar cells.
In addition, land availability has a large effect on the available solar energy because
solar panels can only be set up on land that is otherwise unused and suitable for solar
panels. Roofs have been found to be a suitable place for solar cells, as many people have
discovered that they can collect energy directly from their homes this way. Other areas that
are suitable for solar cells are lands that are not being used for businesses where solar
plants can be established.Solar technologies are characterized as either passive or active
depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute sunlight and enable solar energy
to be harnessed at different levels around the world, mostly depending on distance from
the equator. Although solar energy refers primarily to the use of solar radiation for
practical ends, all renewable energies, other than Geothermal power and Tidal power, derive
their energy either directly or indirectly from the Sun.
Active solar techniques use photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, solar thermal collectors,
pumps, and fans to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Passive solar techniques include
selecting materials with favorable thermal properties, designing spaces that naturally
circulate air, and referencing the position of a building to the Sun. Active solar technologies
increase the supply of energy and are considered supply side technologies, while passive solar
technologies reduce the need for alternate resources and are generally considered demand
side technologies.In 2000, the United Nations Development Programme, UN Department of Economic
and Social Affairs, and World Energy Council published an estimate of the potential solar
energy that could be used by humans each year that took into account factors such as insolation,
cloud cover, and the land that is usable by humans. The estimate found that solar energy
has a global potential of 1,575–49,837 EJ per year (see table below).==Thermal energy==Solar thermal technologies can be used for
water heating, space heating, space cooling and process heat generation.===Early commercial adaptation===
In 1878, at the Universal Exposition in Paris, Augustin Mouchot successfully demonstrated
a solar steam engine, but couldn’t continue development because of cheap coal and other
factors. In 1897, Frank Shuman, a U.S. inventor, engineer
and solar energy pioneer, built a small demonstration solar engine that worked by reflecting solar
energy onto square boxes filled with ether, which has a lower boiling point than water,
and were fitted internally with black pipes which in turn powered a steam engine. In 1908
Shuman formed the Sun Power Company with the intent of building larger solar power plants.
He, along with his technical advisor A.S.E. Ackermann and British physicist Sir Charles
Vernon Boys, developed an improved system using mirrors to reflect solar energy upon
collector boxes, increasing heating capacity to the extent that water could now be used
instead of ether. Shuman then constructed a full-scale steam engine powered by low-pressure
water, enabling him to patent the entire solar engine system by 1912.
Shuman built the world’s first solar thermal power station in Maadi, Egypt, between 1912
and 1913. His plant used parabolic troughs to power a 45–52 kilowatts (60–70 hp)
engine that pumped more than 22,000 litres (4,800 imp gal; 5,800 US gal) of water per
minute from the Nile River to adjacent cotton fields. Although the outbreak of World War
I and the discovery of cheap oil in the 1930s discouraged the advancement of solar energy,
Shuman’s vision and basic design were resurrected in the 1970s with a new wave of interest in
solar thermal energy. In 1916 Shuman was quoted in the media advocating solar energy’s utilization,
saying: We have proved the commercial profit of sun
power in the tropics and have more particularly proved that after our stores of oil and coal
are exhausted the human race can receive unlimited power from the rays of the sun.===Water heating===Solar hot water systems use sunlight to heat
water. In low geographical latitudes (below 40 degrees) from 60 to 70% of the domestic
hot water use with temperatures up to 60 °C can be provided by solar heating systems.
The most common types of solar water heaters are evacuated tube collectors (44%) and glazed
flat plate collectors (34%) generally used for domestic hot water; and unglazed plastic
collectors (21%) used mainly to heat swimming pools.As of 2007, the total installed capacity
of solar hot water systems was approximately 154 thermal gigawatt (GWth). China is the
world leader in their deployment with 70 GWth installed as of 2006 and a long-term goal
of 210 GWth by 2020. Israel and Cyprus are the per capita leaders in the use of solar
hot water systems with over 90% of homes using them. In the United States, Canada, and Australia,
heating swimming pools is the dominant application of solar hot water with an installed capacity
of 18 GWth as of 2005.===Heating, cooling and ventilation===In the United States, heating, ventilation
and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for 30% (4.65 EJ/yr) of the energy used in
commercial buildings and nearly 50% (10.1 EJ/yr) of the energy used in residential buildings.
Solar heating, cooling and ventilation technologies can be used to offset a portion of this energy. Thermal mass is any material that can be used
to store heat—heat from the Sun in the case of solar energy. Common thermal mass materials
include stone, cement and water. Historically they have been used in arid climates or warm
temperate regions to keep buildings cool by absorbing solar energy during the day and
radiating stored heat to the cooler atmosphere at night. However, they can be used in cold
temperate areas to maintain warmth as well. The size and placement of thermal mass depend
on several factors such as climate, daylighting and shading conditions. When properly incorporated,
thermal mass maintains space temperatures in a comfortable range and reduces the need
for auxiliary heating and cooling equipment.A solar chimney (or thermal chimney, in this
context) is a passive solar ventilation system composed of a vertical shaft connecting the
interior and exterior of a building. As the chimney warms, the air inside is heated causing
an updraft that pulls air through the building. Performance can be improved by using glazing
and thermal mass materials in a way that mimics greenhouses.
Deciduous trees and plants have been promoted as a means of controlling solar heating and
cooling. When planted on the southern side of a building in the northern hemisphere or
the northern side in the southern hemisphere, their leaves provide shade during the summer,
while the bare limbs allow light to pass during the winter. Since bare, leafless trees shade
1/3 to 1/2 of incident solar radiation, there is a balance between the benefits of summer
shading and the corresponding loss of winter heating. In climates with significant heating
loads, deciduous trees should not be planted on the Equator-facing side of a building because
they will interfere with winter solar availability. They can, however, be used on the east and
west sides to provide a degree of summer shading without appreciably affecting winter solar
gain.===Cooking===Solar cookers use sunlight for cooking, drying
and pasteurization. They can be grouped into three broad categories: box cookers, panel
cookers and reflector cookers. The simplest solar cooker is the box cooker first built
by Horace de Saussure in 1767. A basic box cooker consists of an insulated container
with a transparent lid. It can be used effectively with partially overcast skies and will typically
reach temperatures of 90–150 °C (194–302 °F). Panel cookers use a reflective panel
to direct sunlight onto an insulated container and reach temperatures comparable to box cookers.
Reflector cookers use various concentrating geometries (dish, trough, Fresnel mirrors)
to focus light on a cooking container. These cookers reach temperatures of 315 °C (599
°F) and above but require direct light to function properly and must be repositioned
to track the Sun.===Process heat===Solar concentrating technologies such as parabolic
dish, trough and Scheffler reflectors can provide process heat for commercial and industrial
applications. The first commercial system was the Solar Total Energy Project (STEP)
in Shenandoah, Georgia, USA where a field of 114 parabolic dishes provided 50% of the
process heating, air conditioning and electrical requirements for a clothing factory. This
grid-connected cogeneration system provided 400 kW of electricity plus thermal energy
in the form of 401 kW steam and 468 kW chilled water, and had a one-hour peak load thermal
storage. Evaporation ponds are shallow pools that concentrate dissolved solids through
evaporation. The use of evaporation ponds to obtain salt from seawater is one of the
oldest applications of solar energy. Modern uses include concentrating brine solutions
used in leach mining and removing dissolved solids from waste streams. Clothes lines,
clotheshorses, and clothes racks dry clothes through evaporation by wind and sunlight without
consuming electricity or gas. In some states of the United States legislation protects
the “right to dry” clothes. Unglazed transpired collectors (UTC) are perforated sun-facing
walls used for preheating ventilation air. UTCs can raise the incoming air temperature
up to 22 °C (40 °F) and deliver outlet temperatures of 45–60 °C (113–140 °F). The short
payback period of transpired collectors (3 to 12 years) makes them a more cost-effective
alternative than glazed collection systems. As of 2003, over 80 systems with a combined
collector area of 35,000 square metres (380,000 sq ft) had been installed worldwide, including
an 860 m2 (9,300 sq ft) collector in Costa Rica used for drying coffee beans and a 1,300
m2 (14,000 sq ft) collector in Coimbatore, India, used for drying marigolds.===Water treatment===Solar distillation can be used to make saline
or brackish water potable. The first recorded instance of this was by 16th-century Arab
alchemists. A large-scale solar distillation project was first constructed in 1872 in the
Chilean mining town of Las Salinas. The plant, which had solar collection area of 4,700 m2
(51,000 sq ft), could produce up to 22,700 L (5,000 imp gal; 6,000 US gal) per day and
operate for 40 years. Individual still designs include single-slope, double-slope (or greenhouse
type), vertical, conical, inverted absorber, multi-wick, and multiple effect. These stills
can operate in passive, active, or hybrid modes. Double-slope stills are the most economical
for decentralized domestic purposes, while active multiple effect units are more suitable
for large-scale applications.Solar water disinfection (SODIS) involves exposing water-filled plastic
polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles to sunlight for several hours. Exposure times
vary depending on weather and climate from a minimum of six hours to two days during
fully overcast conditions. It is recommended by the World Health Organization as a viable
method for household water treatment and safe storage. Over two million people in developing
countries use this method for their daily drinking water.Solar energy may be used in
a water stabilization pond to treat waste water without chemicals or electricity. A
further environmental advantage is that algae grow in such ponds and consume carbon dioxide
in photosynthesis, although algae may produce toxic chemicals that make the water unusable.===Molten salt technology===
Molten salt can be employed as a thermal energy storage method to retain thermal energy collected
by a solar tower or solar trough of a concentrated solar power plant, so that it can be used
to generate electricity in bad weather or at night. It was demonstrated in the Solar
Two project from 1995–1999. The system is predicted to have an annual efficiency of
99%, a reference to the energy retained by storing heat before turning it into electricity,
versus converting heat directly into electricity. The molten salt mixtures vary. The most extended
mixture contains sodium nitrate, potassium nitrate and calcium nitrate. It is non-flammable
and nontoxic, and has already been used in the chemical and metals industries as a heat-transport
fluid, so experience with such systems exists in non-solar applications.
The salt melts at 131 °C (268 °F). It is kept liquid at 288 °C (550 °F) in an insulated
“cold” storage tank. The liquid salt is pumped through panels in a solar collector where
the focused sun heats it to 566 °C (1,051 °F). It is then sent to a hot storage tank.
This is so well insulated that the thermal energy can be usefully stored for up to a
week.When electricity is needed, the hot salt is pumped to a conventional steam-generator
to produce superheated steam for a turbine/generator as used in any conventional coal, oil, or
nuclear power plant. A 100-megawatt turbine would need a tank about 9.1 metres (30 ft)
tall and 24 metres (79 ft) in diameter to drive it for four hours by this design.
Several parabolic trough power plants in Spain and solar power tower developer SolarReserve
use this thermal energy storage concept. The Solana Generating Station in the U.S. has
six hours of storage by molten salt. The María Elena plant is a 400 MW thermo-solar complex
in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta employing molten salt technology.==Electricity production==Solar power is the conversion of sunlight
into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar
power (CSP). CSP systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area
of sunlight into a small beam. PV converts light into electric current using the photoelectric
effect. Solar power is anticipated to become the world’s
largest source of electricity by 2050, with solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar
power contributing 16 and 11 percent to the global overall consumption, respectively.
In 2016, after another year of rapid growth, solar generated 1.3% of global power.Commercial
concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s. The 392 MW Ivanpah
Solar Power Facility, in the Mojave Desert of California, is the largest solar power
plant in the world. Other large concentrated solar power plants include the 150 MW Solnova
Solar Power Station and the 100 MW Andasol solar power station, both in Spain. The 250
MW Agua Caliente Solar Project, in the United States, and the 221 MW Charanka Solar Park
in India, are the world’s largest photovoltaic plants. Solar projects exceeding 1 GW are
being developed, but most of the deployed photovoltaics are in small rooftop arrays
of less than 5 kW, which are connected to the grid using net metering and/or a feed-in
tariff.===Photovoltaics===In the last two decades, photovoltaics (PV),
also known as solar PV, has evolved from a pure niche market of small scale applications
towards becoming a mainstream electricity source. A solar cell is a device that converts
light directly into electricity using the photoelectric effect. The first solar cell
was constructed by Charles Fritts in the 1880s. In 1931 a German engineer, Dr Bruno Lange,
developed a photo cell using silver selenide in place of copper oxide. Although the prototype
selenium cells converted less than 1% of incident light into electricity, both Ernst Werner
von Siemens and James Clerk Maxwell recognized the importance of this discovery. Following
the work of Russell Ohl in the 1940s, researchers Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin
created the crystalline silicon solar cell in 1954. These early solar cells cost 286
USD/watt and reached efficiencies of 4.5–6%. By 2012 available efficiencies exceeded 20%,
and the maximum efficiency of research photovoltaics was in excess of 40%.===Concentrated solar power===Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems use
lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small
beam. The concentrated heat is then used as a heat source for a conventional power plant.
A wide range of concentrating technologies exists; the most developed are the parabolic
trough, the concentrating linear fresnel reflector, the Stirling dish and the solar power tower.
Various techniques are used to track the Sun and focus light. In all of these systems a
working fluid is heated by the concentrated sunlight, and is then used for power generation
or energy storage.==Architecture and urban planning==Sunlight has influenced building design since
the beginning of architectural history. Advanced solar architecture and urban planning methods
were first employed by the Greeks and Chinese, who oriented their buildings toward the south
to provide light and warmth.The common features of passive solar architecture are orientation
relative to the Sun, compact proportion (a low surface area to volume ratio), selective
shading (overhangs) and thermal mass. When these features are tailored to the local climate
and environment they can produce well-lit spaces that stay in a comfortable temperature
range. Socrates’ Megaron House is a classic example of passive solar design. The most
recent approaches to solar design use computer modeling tying together solar lighting, heating
and ventilation systems in an integrated solar design package. Active solar equipment such
as pumps, fans and switchable windows can complement passive design and improve system
performance. Urban heat islands (UHI) are metropolitan
areas with higher temperatures than that of the surrounding environment. The higher temperatures
result from increased absorption of solar energy by urban materials such as asphalt
and concrete, which have lower albedos and higher heat capacities than those in the natural
environment. A straightforward method of counteracting the UHI effect is to paint buildings and roads
white, and to plant trees in the area. Using these methods, a hypothetical “cool communities”
program in Los Angeles has projected that urban temperatures could be reduced by approximately
3 °C at an estimated cost of US$1 billion, giving estimated total annual benefits of
US$530 million from reduced air-conditioning costs and healthcare savings.==Agriculture and horticulture==Agriculture and horticulture seek to optimize
the capture of solar energy in order to optimize the productivity of plants. Techniques such
as timed planting cycles, tailored row orientation, staggered heights between rows and the mixing
of plant varieties can improve crop yields. While sunlight is generally considered a plentiful
resource, the exceptions highlight the importance of solar energy to agriculture. During the
short growing seasons of the Little Ice Age, French and English farmers employed fruit
walls to maximize the collection of solar energy. These walls acted as thermal masses
and accelerated ripening by keeping plants warm. Early fruit walls were built perpendicular
to the ground and facing south, but over time, sloping walls were developed to make better
use of sunlight. In 1699, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier even suggested using a tracking mechanism
which could pivot to follow the Sun. Applications of solar energy in agriculture aside from
growing crops include pumping water, drying crops, brooding chicks and drying chicken
manure. More recently the technology has been embraced by vintners, who use the energy generated
by solar panels to power grape presses.Greenhouses convert solar light to heat, enabling year-round
production and the growth (in enclosed environments) of specialty crops and other plants not naturally
suited to the local climate. Primitive greenhouses were first used during Roman times to produce
cucumbers year-round for the Roman emperor Tiberius. The first modern greenhouses were
built in Europe in the 16th century to keep exotic plants brought back from explorations
abroad. Greenhouses remain an important part of horticulture today, and plastic transparent
materials have also been used to similar effect in polytunnels and row covers.==Transport==Development of a solar-powered car has been
an engineering goal since the 1980s. The World Solar Challenge is a biannual solar-powered
car race, where teams from universities and enterprises compete over 3,021 kilometres
(1,877 mi) across central Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. In 1987, when it was founded,
the winner’s average speed was 67 kilometres per hour (42 mph) and by 2007 the winner’s
average speed had improved to 90.87 kilometres per hour (56.46 mph).
The North American Solar Challenge and the planned South African Solar Challenge are
comparable competitions that reflect an international interest in the engineering and development
of solar powered vehicles.Some vehicles use solar panels for auxiliary power, such as
for air conditioning, to keep the interior cool, thus reducing fuel consumption.In 1975,
the first practical solar boat was constructed in England. By 1995, passenger boats incorporating
PV panels began appearing and are now used extensively. In 1996, Kenichi Horie made the
first solar-powered crossing of the Pacific Ocean, and the Sun21 catamaran made the first
solar-powered crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in the winter of 2006–2007. There were plans
to circumnavigate the globe in 2010.In 1974, the unmanned AstroFlight Sunrise airplane
made the first solar flight. On 29 April 1979, the Solar Riser made the first flight in a
solar-powered, fully controlled, man-carrying flying machine, reaching an altitude of 40
ft (12 m). In 1980, the Gossamer Penguin made the first piloted flights powered solely by
photovoltaics. This was quickly followed by the Solar Challenger which crossed the English
Channel in July 1981. In 1990 Eric Scott Raymond in 21 hops flew from California to North Carolina
using solar power. Developments then turned back to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with
the Pathfinder (1997) and subsequent designs, culminating in the Helios which set the altitude
record for a non-rocket-propelled aircraft at 29,524 metres (96,864 ft) in 2001. The
Zephyr, developed by BAE Systems, is the latest in a line of record-breaking solar aircraft,
making a 54-hour flight in 2007, and month-long flights were envisioned by 2010. As of 2016,
Solar Impulse, an electric aircraft, is currently circumnavigating the globe. It is a single-seat
plane powered by solar cells and capable of taking off under its own power. The design
allows the aircraft to remain airborne for several days.A solar balloon is a black balloon
that is filled with ordinary air. As sunlight shines on the balloon, the air inside is heated
and expands causing an upward buoyancy force, much like an artificially heated hot air balloon.
Some solar balloons are large enough for human flight, but usage is generally limited to
the toy market as the surface-area to payload-weight ratio is relatively high.==Fuel production==Solar chemical processes use solar energy
to drive chemical reactions. These processes offset energy that would otherwise come from
a fossil fuel source and can also convert solar energy into storable and transportable
fuels. Solar induced chemical reactions can be divided into thermochemical or photochemical.
A variety of fuels can be produced by artificial photosynthesis. The multielectron catalytic
chemistry involved in making carbon-based fuels (such as methanol) from reduction of
carbon dioxide is challenging; a feasible alternative is hydrogen production from protons,
though use of water as the source of electrons (as plants do) requires mastering the multielectron
oxidation of two water molecules to molecular oxygen. Some have envisaged working solar
fuel plants in coastal metropolitan areas by 2050 – the splitting of sea water providing
hydrogen to be run through adjacent fuel-cell electric power plants and the pure water by-product
going directly into the municipal water system. Another vision involves all human structures
covering the earth’s surface (i.e., roads, vehicles and buildings) doing photosynthesis
more efficiently than plants.Hydrogen production technologies have been a significant area
of solar chemical research since the 1970s. Aside from electrolysis driven by photovoltaic
or photochemical cells, several thermochemical processes have also been explored. One such
route uses concentrators to split water into oxygen and hydrogen at high temperatures (2,300–2,600
°C or 4,200–4,700 °F). Another approach uses the heat from solar concentrators to
drive the steam reformation of natural gas thereby increasing the overall hydrogen yield
compared to conventional reforming methods. Thermochemical cycles characterized by the
decomposition and regeneration of reactants present another avenue for hydrogen production.
The Solzinc process under development at the Weizmann Institute of Science uses a 1 MW
solar furnace to decompose zinc oxide (ZnO) at temperatures above 1,200 °C (2,200 °F).
This initial reaction produces pure zinc, which can subsequently be reacted with water
to produce hydrogen.==Energy storage methods==Thermal mass systems can store solar energy
in the form of heat at domestically useful temperatures for daily or interseasonal durations.
Thermal storage systems generally use readily available materials with high specific heat
capacities such as water, earth and stone. Well-designed systems can lower peak demand,
shift time-of-use to off-peak hours and reduce overall heating and cooling requirements.Phase
change materials such as paraffin wax and Glauber’s salt are another thermal storage
medium. These materials are inexpensive, readily available, and can deliver domestically useful
temperatures (approximately 64 °C or 147 °F). The “Dover House” (in Dover, Massachusetts)
was the first to use a Glauber’s salt heating system, in 1948. Solar energy can also be
stored at high temperatures using molten salts. Salts are an effective storage medium because
they are low-cost, have a high specific heat capacity and can deliver heat at temperatures
compatible with conventional power systems. The Solar Two project used this method of
energy storage, allowing it to store 1.44 terajoules (400,000 kWh) in its 68 m³ storage
tank with an annual storage efficiency of about 99%.Off-grid PV systems have traditionally
used rechargeable batteries to store excess electricity. With grid-tied systems, excess
electricity can be sent to the transmission grid, while standard grid electricity can
be used to meet shortfalls. Net metering programs give household systems a credit for any electricity
they deliver to the grid. This is handled by ‘rolling back’ the meter whenever the home
produces more electricity than it consumes. If the net electricity use is below zero,
the utility then rolls over the kilowatt hour credit to the next month. Other approaches
involve the use of two meters, to measure electricity consumed vs. electricity produced.
This is less common due to the increased installation cost of the second meter. Most standard meters
accurately measure in both directions, making a second meter unnecessary.
Pumped-storage hydroelectricity stores energy in the form of water pumped when energy is
available from a lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation one. The energy is recovered
when demand is high by releasing the water, with the pump becoming a hydroelectric power
generator.==Development, deployment and economics==Beginning with the surge in coal use which
accompanied the Industrial Revolution, energy consumption has steadily transitioned from
wood and biomass to fossil fuels. The early development of solar technologies starting
in the 1860s was driven by an expectation that coal would soon become scarce. However,
development of solar technologies stagnated in the early 20th century in the face of the
increasing availability, economy, and utility of coal and petroleum.The 1973 oil embargo
and 1979 energy crisis caused a reorganization of energy policies around the world and brought
renewed attention to developing solar technologies. Deployment strategies focused on incentive
programs such as the Federal Photovoltaic Utilization Program in the U.S. and the Sunshine
Program in Japan. Other efforts included the formation of research facilities in the U.S.
(SERI, now NREL), Japan (NEDO), and Germany (Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems
ISE).Commercial solar water heaters began appearing in the United States in the 1890s.
These systems saw increasing use until the 1920s but were gradually replaced by cheaper
and more reliable heating fuels. As with photovoltaics, solar water heating attracted renewed attention
as a result of the oil crises in the 1970s but interest subsided in the 1980s due to
falling petroleum prices. Development in the solar water heating sector progressed steadily
throughout the 1990s and annual growth rates have averaged 20% since 1999. Although generally
underestimated, solar water heating and cooling is by far the most widely deployed solar technology
with an estimated capacity of 154 GW as of 2007.The International Energy Agency has said
that solar energy can make considerable contributions to solving some of the most urgent problems
the world now faces: The development of affordable, inexhaustible
and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase
countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly
import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating
climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are
global. Hence the additional costs of the incentives for early deployment should be
considered learning investments; they must be wisely spent and need to be widely shared. In 2011, a report by the International Energy
Agency found that solar energy technologies such as photovoltaics, solar hot water and
concentrated solar power could provide a third of the world’s energy by 2060 if politicians
commit to limiting climate change. The energy from the sun could play a key role in de-carbonizing
the global economy alongside improvements in energy efficiency and imposing costs on
greenhouse gas emitters. “The strength of solar is the incredible variety and flexibility
of applications, from small scale to big scale”. We have proved … that after our stores of
oil and coal are exhausted the human race can receive unlimited power from the rays
of the sun.==ISO standards==
The International Organization for Standardization has established several standards relating
to solar energy equipment. For example, ISO 9050 relates to glass in building while ISO
10217 relates to the materials used in solar water heaters.==See also====Notes

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