Solar Energy – This Commodity is Not for Sale
If anything good came out during the recent debacle of Escom, it is that once again, there is a merry interest in alternative sources of energy. Even after loadshedding decreased, the uproar created and the pain it did to business will have a good chance of sticking.
The desire for alternative sources of energy is on the forefront and may it stay there for good – as it should. Wind power is an excellent thing except for the many buts that wind power generation have. If costs is the main objection to solar power generation that should be the least of worries.
The installation of solar panels is until today, considered a specialized job. Like any commodity in the market, when the demand is high but the supply is limited, the cost increase. As more and more homes however clamour for alternative sources of energy, better technology and more labor is drawn to the market which should result in lower affordable prices. This though is still in the future.
Reality in South Africa today is the state of affairs, instability and unpredictability of Escom’s supply. But even if Escom does provide a stable and predictable supply, solar energy is free and it is inexhaustible.
Premises that are solar powered are reaping the benefits for the owners in terms of higher property value, confidence in not being surprised by power shortage and outages, not being dependent on the fluctuation in power prices and the definite advantage of having provided a better environment solution.
Today, the typical ways of tapping into solar energy are:
- Through a Heliostat: This are focusing collectors composed of mirrors that are angled at the sun to collect the energy. The temperature that heliostats could provide reaches more that 4,000 degrees centigrade. This high temperature is sufficient for use even for furnaces.
- Through Flat Plate Fluid Collectors: The water or fluid inside the pipes becomes heated and is ideal for heating purposes like geysers, swimming pools, homes, schools, offices etc.
- Through Solar Distillation: Instead of heat, this provides water. The mechanics is similar to the processes of plate collectors except that this is generally used to steam salt water. To do this, tanks and ducts are usually installed in surfaces that receive ample sun. Through the heat, the salt water turns into steam and when the steam condenses, the water is collected for regular use.
- Through photovoltaic cells (PV modules): These are the most common type to utilize solar energy – characterized by solar panels installed on rooftops and other flat surfaces with ample sun, converting the power collected into electricity.
Unlike any products, whether refined or manufactured, the processing of solar energy do not need additional costs of energy to power it up. It is energy generating by itself. Except maybe for regular inspection and replacement of parts (when it employs a mechanical device), the tapping of solar energy is virtually maintenance free.
Once installed, it could be used for as long as needed for the amount of energy, (depending on the capacity of the unit), which the owner requires.