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The Future of Solar Energy: How far have we come from solar cookers?

We have all read in our environmental science textbooks about how solar cookers and solar heaters are like some of the most craziest innovations in the realm of solar energy and usage. Most of us, at that time, used to babble out about these inventions like solar-powered robots ourselves and pour out information on these. On the other hand, as soon as the afternoon heat of the midday sun used to hit our juvenile heads, we would scream out in frustration and curse the sun for being there at all.

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Let us consider how far we have actually come in terms of understanding and embracing solar energy, by moving beyond the quintessence of the solar cooker and the solar heater. How high has mankind progressed on the ladder of comprehension with relation to solar energy as a whole?

As is evident from the myriad sources of today, we have come a long way from the age of the solar heater and the solar cooker with relation to the numerous innovations that have taken place in this field. Mr. Sanjay Shah of Abellon Clean Energy (http://www.abelloncleanenergy.com/) mentioned the use of solar energy has progressed to appliances such as solar chargers, solar batteries, and even transcended to areas like solar powered water pumps, theaters and even hospitals running entirely on solar power. He also said that for the uninformed, there actually exist appliances such as the solar refrigerator and the solar-powered air conditioner, which are essentially an upgrade in terms of the economy of the previous electricity powered ones.

The host of the event, Dr. Harinarayan of the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (http://www.germi.org/) talked about how the solar heaters of yore had also seen an upgrade in the recent times. Instead of the old and obsolete models which needed to be right in the focal point of sunlight and would require highly focused sun rays in order to heat a dish of food, the solar cookers of today actually run on solar batteries. The best thing about these batteries is the fact that they only need to be kept in direct sunlight in order for them to get charged. Once they are fully charged, they can be used in a symbiotic arrangment with the solar cooker, where the batteries actually act as the fuel provider for the machinery.

Moreover, new and innovative methods to maximize the efficency of solar panels have also been understood and implemented. In this case, it has been found that when solar panels are arranged on top of each other, instead of side-by-side, their efficiency can be increased considerably, owing to the fact that more panels can be used within the same stretch of land. The top panels recieve 100% of the sun’s energy, while residual energy of about 60-7o% reach the lower panels. These can be especially useful for industries and other large scale harvesters of solar energy.

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On the topic of technological advancement in the realm of solar energy and power, Mr. Karan of Shashwat Clean Tech (http://www.shashwatcleantech.com) informed us about the use of solar pumps for irrigating farmlands as well as for salt farming, which would essentially help farmers in rural areas by reducing their work toll and in turn, maximizing their benefits from the industry as a whole. He is of the opinion that the scope for improvement and advancement in the realm of solar energy is vast and wide, especially once we take inspiration from nature and use the concept of bio-mimicry to harness solar energy more efficiently. This is due to the fact that nature has the answers already, with plants and other organisms tapping into the solar stream of energy in efficient ways.

Tripped Out Fact: Solar powered pumps envisioned by teams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Jain Irrigation System are designed to be suitable for turning brackish water intro drinking water with a solar powered machine that can pull salt out of the water.

Not only does solar energy help in supplying drinking water but also in the state of emergencies. During the earthquakes in Nepal, solar energy provided an alternative or complement to traditional power sources such as fossil fuel generators. Solar companies developed solar power system to help power lights and mobile charging stations. A “Solar road” has also been developed in the Netherlands, which is expected to harness 3,000 KWH of power per day, which is enough to power a household for a year.

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Tripped Out Fact: Solar innovation has reached the heights of flight technology as well, with the introduction of Impulse 2, the first solar-powered aircraft which can even operate in the darkness of the night.

Mr. Nirat Patel of Efficore Energy (http://www.efficoreenergy.com/) talked about 3D solar cells which have the tenacity to capture solar energy from all the directions. He also talked about storage cells which harness the power of the sun, and can then be used in any appliance at all.

Thus, the revolution has already started and is spreading to more and more advanced levels of technology and society. The time when the sun becomes more akin to a power source rather than a constant harbinger of frustration is also very close, as people will soon discover that everything stems from this colossal orb of energy which we choose to take for granted.

Image Sources: [1], [2], [3]

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