Solar Power

From Dallas Makerspace
Jump to: navigation, search

A request has been made to delete this page.
If you feel this is in error, please remove the {{delete}} template.

Solar power uses energy from the sun to do something neat here on Earth. It turns out that most everything we do started out with energy from the sun so here we're talking about more immediate/direct methods.

Solar Cells

This is what everyone thinks about when they think of solar power. Solar Cells (photovoltaic cells or PV cells) are made of semiconductors and produce an electric current when exposed to light. Originally made of silicon, they now are also made of amorphous crystals and even liquids.

You can make liquid solar cells at home using chemicals you can get at the store.

You can't make silicon solar cells at home (very easily), but you can buy them on the surplus market at good prices.

There are also commercial vendors, if you just want to get one fast that works well without a lot of hassle.

Solar heating

You might also think of solar water heaters when you hear "solar power". These use the heat from the sun to directly heat water for bathing and washing. The basics are pretty straight-forward: leave a cup of water out in the Texas sun for a few hours and you'll feel how hot it can get. But there are tricks of the trade to make a useful amount of hot water and store it for when you need it. Solar water heaters are very popular in Australia (but not as popular as kangaroos, I hear).

You can also build your house to "collect" solar energy to reduce your heating bill. Here on the surface of the sun, I mean Texas, we're more interested in not collecting solar energy to reduce your cooling bill. It is pretty much the same thing but in reverse.

Solar cooling

This is a really clever idea that uses solar heat to dry out a desiccant (liquid absorbing material) during the day. At night, the liquid evaporates to be reabsorbed by the desiccant. When something evaporates, it takes energy from its surroundings to change to a gas. It turns out that you can scale this system to a point where you can make ice. Then you can store the ice to keep your food cold, or just to sit on top of because its 116 degrees outside.

Other things

So solar energy is a great way to move ions around your stems and leaves, if you're a chlorophyll containing plant. You can put these ions to good use making cool chemicals like starch and sugar. The best part is when you put all these carbohydrates someplace safe, like your roots or in a big juicy fruit.

Its all well and good until some jerk herbivorous mammal comes along and eats them.

But then you can make steaks out of the herbivorous mammal, so I guess everyone gets their comeuppance.

And the makerspace gets solar powered steaks.