In the recent past solar energy, solar heat and radiant light from sun is being harnessed by man with the aid of a range of rapidly-evolving technologies. The radiation from the sun, together with other secondary solar-propelled resources like the wind and, hydroelectricity biomass and wave power, to a great extent account for most of the abundant renewable forms of energy on earth. Despite this, only a minute percentage of the solar energy is harvested. Solar energy is primarily the use of radiation from the sun to meet practical ends. Taking a closer look, it is clear that all forms of renewable energies, with the exception of tidal and geothermal energies, derive their power from the sun. This paper seeks to establish the various ways in which the solar energy is harvested and put into use to ensure that it yields more appealing energy results. It will look into the various ways in which it has been used and identify other ways in which it can be better applied and subsequently improved.
Solar technologies are generally categorized into either active or passive. This assumption is reached at depending on the means they distribute, convert and capture sunlight. For active solar techniques there are rampant use pumps, fans, and photovoltaic panels in the conversion of sunlight into more useful outputs. On the other hand, passive solar techniques involve selecting items with optimum designing spaces, thermal properties which naturally circulate air, and regarding the position of a foundation to that of the Sun. Active solar technologies result to increment in the supply of energy and are recommended to be excellent supply side technologies, contrary to this, passive solar technologies decrease the necessity of alternate resources and hence are considered to be demand side technologies (Prakash & Garg 67). .
The solar energy harvested has been used in different areas in the economic sectors across the world. It has facilitated the development and advancements in technologies both in business and scientific areas. Solar power has been used in architecture and subsequent urban planning where sunlight has affected building designs ever since the start of architectural history. The most common characteristics of passive solar architecture are relative orientations to the Sun’s position, the compact proportion (lower surface area to volume ratio), overhangs (selective shading) and most importantly thermal mass (Behrman 34). In cases where such elements are tailored to suit the local environment and climate, they are able to produce properly-lit areas which remain in an appealing temperature range. Solar energy has also been used in thermal technologies where its application has been used for space cooling, space heating, heat generation and process water heating.
This has ensured that an alternative source of energy has been developed and to a great extent reduced the chances of environmental degradation due to use of other forms of material to produce energy (Sukhatme 170). Solar energy has also been used to make solar cookers which use sunlight for pasteurization, drying and cooking. These solar cookers can be classified into three major categories: reflector cookers, panel cookers and box cookers. Panel cookers make use of a reflective panel to guide sunlight rays onto a properly insulated container and attain temperatures comparable to that of box cookers. Similarly, reflector cookers use different concentrating geometries (trough, Fresnel mirrors, and dish) to direct light on a given for container cooking purposes.
Hybrid solar lighting can also be used to diversify the use of solar energy in the day to day activities of man. Hybrid solar lighting is basically an active solar technique of availing interior illumination. HSL systems gather sunlight rays with the use focus mirrors which track the Sun and apply optical fibers in transmission of the same into a building to act as a supplement to the already existing conventional lighting. In applications involving single-stories, the systems have the capability of transmitting up to 55% of the sunlight received directly (Anderson 132). Solar distillation can also be explored to enhance improvement procedures in the use of solar energy. Solar distillation can be applied in the making of brackish water or saline potable. The stills are in a position to operate in hybrid, active, or passive modes. The use of double-slope stills is the most economical for domestic purposes that are decentralized; similarly, active units (multiple effects) are better suited for large-scale scientific application. This venture is a great stepping stone towards total solar energy utilization as innovation is allowed to thrive freely and independent opinions put against the grid for thorough scrutiny (Brezet 453).
In most of the solar harvesting plants, solar chemical processes need solar energy to propel chemical reactions. The same processes offset energy which could otherwise be attained from an alternate means and can divert solar energy to storable and transportable forms such as fuels. Solar aided chemical reactions are be divided into photochemical or thermo chemical. A range of fuels are produced by way of artificial photosynthesis. This multi electron catalytic chemical reaction involved in producing carbon-based fuels like methanol from the subsequent reduction of carbon dioxide is quite difficult. With the use of solar energy, these chemical reactions are eased and energy can now be stored in various other forms for later consumption.