Considering the current load shedding Ghana is going through, we thought it would be nice to provide some information on an alternate source of power private citizens and corporations could consider. Though this is not, by any means, a comprehensive study of solar energy, provides the basics about the energy source as well as some advantages and disadvantages of using it. Power is essential for enjoying your new home and we hope you find this useful like we have. First, a little background:
Solar Energy Short History
In 1839 a French physicist named Edmund Becquerel realized that the sun’s energy could produce a “photovoltaic effect” (photo = light, voltaic = electrical potential). (source: www.altenergy.org) Solar power is produced by collecting sun energy or solar radiation and converting it into electricity. This is done by using solar panels, which are large flat panels made up of many individual solar cells. It is most often used in remote locations, although it is becoming more popular in urban areas as well.
Absolutely free to harvest. You don’t need to pay anyone any monthly bills for access to the sun’s energy. Your only cost is the one-time setup cost of the equipment for harvesting the sun’s photovoltaic (pV) energy and converting it into electricity for your household. A cost which should pay for itself in 3 to 5 years.
Very clean and causes absolutely no pollution, nor does it have by-products that adversely affect the environment in any way. This does not include the machines that are used in harvesting the energy since these are manufactured in factories and may cause some pollution.
Even though cloudy skies reduce its effectiveness, Ghana’s (and most of Africa’s) climate is ideal for solar panels as it is almost always sunny all year round. Except for sometimes during the wet season when the days are cloudy. The all-year round sun means a constant supply of energy to the solar power user.
It can be used anywhere from urban centres to remote areas where it is too expensive or impracticable to extend the electricity power grid.
Many everyday items such as calculators and other low power consuming devices that normally run on dry cell batteries can be powered by energy effectively. This further proves the ubiquity of this energy source.
Solar energy is unlimited, compared to oil-based sources of energy. It is estimated that the world’s oil reserves will last for 30 to 40 more years. On the other hand, it is infinite (well, not exactly, but the sun is estimated to still be around for a few more billion years).
Solar panels also require little maintenance. After installation and optimisation, they are very reliable due to the fact that the panels actively create electricity in just a few millimetres and do not require any type of moving parts that can fail. Solar panels are also a silent producer of energy, so you don’t get the complaints from neighbours a generator would invite.
The primary disadvantage is that it can only be harnessed or harvested during the day or when it is sunny. So at night, if you didn’t store enough during the day, you’re stuck.
Despite the fact their prices are falling currently, solar collectors, panels and cells remain relatively expensive to manufacture and, consequently, are expensive for the average citizen to acquire.
It is possible to build solar power stations but they do not match the power output of similar sized conventional power stations. They are also very expensive to maintain.
Cloudy days make the solar panels next to incapable of drawing sufficient energy for later use. This makes it an unreliable source of constant power.
Large areas of land are required to capture the suns energy. Solar panels are usually arranged together especially when electricity is to be produced and used in the same location. Even though this can be mitigated by installing the panels on the roof of your home. Some could even go as far as lining the outer walls of their homes with the panels. But this might increase the risk of breakage and is more practical if the house is high.
The saying about stones and glass houses comes into play when we rely on this alternate energy. This is because, solar panels are breakable and so should be well protected from objects that could cause them to break.
This may be a minor point, but since solar power is stored in batteries for later or nighttime use, a considerable space needs to be reserved in the house to store the batteries. Space some households may find difficult to create. Additionally, the batteries will also need replacing from time to time.
Some Popular Solar Energy Products
Solar Air Conditioning
Solar air conditioning uses passive solar and solar thermal energy to convert photovotaic into sunlight electricity. It is a best way to efficiently use electricity and enjoy air conditioning in your home. The disadvantage about this product is that: it is expensive.
Have some other information about this energy source we missed out on, or do you have a story to share about your experience using solar energy? Please tell us about it in the comments below.