What does a car, heater, and stove have in common? They are all powered by fuel sources. The most popular being fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are dead plant and animal matter that has been compressed and heated over millions of years. They are burned to create heat, which in turn creates energy. However, with heavy industrialization (agricultural and manufacturing), transportation, and personal energy use, our world’s fossil fuel supplies are rapidly depleting. Even more, fossil fuels pollute our environment. Scientists are on the search for alternative energy sources so the world can be weaned of its fossil fuel supply. Out of the many alternative fuel sources, I will be focusing on solar and wind power.
Solar power is simply the conversion of energy from the sun into usable energy. Solar energy can be harvested in two ways: indirectly by using the heat of the sun and directly by utilizing its energy to turn it into electricity. What makes solar power so popular is the fact that it can be used anywhere that has sunlight. Solar power can be collected in 3 different ways: solar heat collectors, solar thermal concentrating systems, and photovoltaics. Solar heat collectors are collectors that are designed to absorb the heat from the sun. The most common ones are flat plate collectors that have a dark absorber plate that is covered with a transparent plate (usually glass). In between the two plates are pipes that are filled with heat-transferring liquid like antifreeze. When sunlight strikes the absorber plate in the collector, the heat is absorbed into the liquid, which is then passed through pipes to the water heater. When the liquid is finished being used, it flows back up to the plate where it is heated again and repeats the process. Solar thermal concentrating systems use mirrors and lenses to concentrate the energy of the sun into a small area to produce energy. The energy heats up molten salt in pipes that run along the concentrating system which is the power...
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