There is a better way…

Sep 8th 2010 at 4:15 PM


"Solar energy is the light and radiant heat from the sun that influences Earth’s climate and weather and sustains life. Solar power is sometimes used as a synonym for solar energy or more specifically to refer to electricity generated from solar radiation." – Source: Wikipedia

This statement is misleading, but an important insight to the way we think in the U.S. and how we approach problems and resolve issues in this arena. In the U.S., we tend to mentally attach measurements to items or products that interfere with problem solving. For example, when I say gallon, you might automatically think of milk, water or gasoline, but what you should think of is 128 ounces.

When I say Kilowatt, most would associate this with electricity automatically when they should think power (energy in general). We have too many ways to measure things: inches, miles, yards, ounces, watts, gallons, pounds, feet, horsepower, inches, tons, and so forth. None of these measurements are easily connected or converted to one another, and are used in most industries here, which in turn enter our learning of these industries and shapes the future problem solving and approaches to new technologies.

In Germany, as well as the rest of Europe and Asia, the metric system is used. Mercedes, a world leader in the auto industry reports for their customers in Germany, the power produced by their cars in Kilowatts, not horsepower. A Kilowatt is 1,000 watts, and a watt is defined as the rate at which work is done when an object is moving at one meter per second against a force of one newton.

 To German’s, power is power. This might seem a trivial point, but take a look at the Wikipedia definition of solar energy again. Solar power is not a synonym for electricity generated by solar radiation; solar energy is simply solar power, or Kilowatts of power. The Earth receives, in solar energy each hour, 1.740x1017 Watts. In other words, a lot. Depending on where you are on the Earth’s surface, and assuming areas in which 90% plus of people on the Earth live, you will receive approximately 600 to 1,000 watts per square meter. Even on a cloudy day, about 75% of this power hits the Earth’s surface.

We need to begin thinking of Solar Energy in the form of Power, not in the form of electricity. This will help us grasp the true potential of all alternative sources of energy more easily.

The vast majority of energy that comes from the sun is thermal, not proton energy (proton energy is converted to electricity using photovoltaic panels). But thermal energy should be our focus for the future as detailed further in this paper. Also remember that 65% of all electricity produced in the U.S. is lost as it travels through the grid and never reaches any consumer. We will compare the two types of alternative energy, photovoltaic and solar thermal, and you be the judge to which is a real solution.

Please to comment
Sep 8th 2010 at 6:18 PM by TerryHoneyman
Great article ... very informative. And a big thumbs up for getting the word out and effectively promoting your company as well as this needed change.

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