One of the biggest areas where solar technology is in use is the generation of electricity. In a time when a great amount of the electricity we use is generated through the burning of coal, rather than through water or even nuclear means, it’s clear that we must explore other technologies to find an energy resource that is not only renewable, but sustainable.
Since the use or availability of solar power systems is determined by the total days of sunlight in any given area, engineers have been trying to find ways to circumvent these limitations. One way of doing this has been to combine the efforts of researchers in various disciplines to design better solar receptors that can be deployed in space around the earth. Placing arrays of these improved receptors above the clouds in the atmosphere could increase the number of consumers who could have this renewable energy source available where it might not have been before due to atmospheric conditions.
In recent years, optical engineers have been working on the production of an inexpensive, flexible lens known as a Fresnel lens. Lightweight and able to be folded up so they take up less room when launched prior to deployment, this lens is cheaper to manufacture than traditional glass or plastic lenses. In addition to the savings in weight, initial tests are showing these lenses can concentrate the solar radiation reaching solar collectors placed underneath in such a way so that the collectors are more than eight times more efficient than anything available today.
In conjunction with the developers of the Fresnel arrays, electrical engineers have been experimenting with a system to transmit electrical power from the arrays down to relay stations that would supply the electricity to consumers. Although only in the initial test stages, there have been some successes at broadcasting enough power from one place to another to power a cell phone and incandescent light bulb.
Other technologies born from a solar education include a solar backpack that can be used to recharge electronic devices like cell phones, iPods, and computers. These devices can be hooked up to the backpack and charged by simply allowing the pack to sit out in ambient sunlight. Another example is the solar calculator battery currently in wide commercial use and which can make use of the lower intensity light in ambient lighting. Currently under development are solar collectors that can generate and store current to power the interior lights in a car or power scooters and other solar vehicles.
Some more earthly career choices include those of construction engineers and architects who are designing buildings and equipment that can handle the additional structural requirements that the weight of solar power systems can place on a building. If the solar panel system is too heavy or off balance, serious damage to a structure can occur.
We are living in an era when the country is experiencing a hunger for clean, renewable energy sources. The aforementioned developments are just a few examples of what a person who has a solar power training degree based in the precepts taught as a part of a solar education can accomplish and turn into an environmental job. By specializing in a field that features solar training, the education these green degrees are likely to provide a satisfying career on the cutting edge of technology.