Monday, July 28, 2008

Solar Eclipse

In case you haven't heard, there will be a total solar eclipse on August 1st. This will be the first total solar eclipse since 2006.

Here at Solar Arcadia, we're experts on solar panels and solar cell phone chargers, not solar eclipses. So to help you understand the science behind a solar eclipse, we grabbed a few quotes from articles:
"Solar eclipses occur when the moon moves in front of the sun. This can happen only at the time of a new moon, when the moon is between Earth and the sun, therefore making the latter no longer visible in our daytime sky."
"The total eclipse begins at sunrise over Northern Canada's Queen Maud Gulf, where the moon's umbra will first touch down on the Earth, resulting in Canada's hosting its first total solar eclipse since February 26, 1979."

"Any given spot on the Earth's surface will play host to a total solar eclipse on an average of once every 375 years."

The bottom line is...

You'll probably never witness one, but it's still cool.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Solar Electricity pt. 2

The first part of this post focused on Photovoltaic Electricity. This post will take a closer look at Solar Thermal Electricity.

Like solar cells, solar thermal systems use solar energy to make electricity. But as the name suggests, solar thermal systems use the sun's heat to do it.

Most solar thermal systems use solar collectors with mirrored surfaces to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver that heats a liquid. The super-heated liquid is used to make steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity in the same way that coal, oil, or nuclear power plants do.

Solar thermal systems may be one of three types: central receiver, dish, or trough. A central receiver system uses large mirrors on top of a high tower to reflect sunlight onto a receiver. This system has been dubbed a "solar power tower." Another system uses a dish-shaped solar collector to collect sunlight. This system resembles a television satellite dish. A third system uses mirrored troughs to collect sunlight. Until recently, trough systems seemed the most promising.

The world's first solar electric plant used mirrored troughs. LUZ, as the plant was called, was perfectly situated in the sunny Mojave desert of California. LUZ was the only solar plant to generate electricity economically. Dollar for dollar, it had always been cheaper to use conventional sources of energy (coal, oil, nuclear) to generate electricity. But the LUZ solar plant turned that around, producing electricity as cheaply as many new coal plants, and with no hidden pollution costs. The future looked bright for this pioneering solar plant and then the dream cracked. LUZ closed its doors at the end of 1992 because of a drop in oil prices and an over-budget construction project at LUZ's home-base.

The bottom line is...

LUZ may be gone, but most solar energy engineers believe solar power towers will be ready to take the place of trough systems very soon.

If you enjoyed our educational posts about solar electricity, be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay updated.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Solar Electricity pt. 1

Besides heating homes and water, solar energy also can be used to produce electricity. Two ways to generate electricity from solar energy are photovoltaics and solar thermal systems.

In this two-part post, we'll focus on Photovoltaic Electricity first...

Photovoltaic comes from the words photo meaning "light" and "volt", a measurement of electricity. Sometimes photovoltaic cells are called PV cells or solar cells for short. You are probably already familiar with solar cells. Solar-powered calculators, toys, and telephone call boxes all, use solar cells to convert light into electricity.

A photovoltaic cell is made of two thin slices of silicon sandwiched together and attached to metal wires. The top slice of silicon, called the N-layer, is very thin and has a chemical added to it that provides the layer with an excess of free electrons. The bottom slice, or P-layer, is much thicker and has a chemical added to it so that it has very few free electrons.

When the two layers are placed together, an interesting thing happens- an electric field is produced that prevents the electrons from traveling from the top layer to the bottom layer. This one-way junction with its electric field becomes the central part of the PV cell.

When the PV cell is exposed to sunlight, bundles of light energy known as photons can knock some of the electrons from the bottom P-layer out of their orbits through the electric field set up at the P-N junction and into the N-layer.

The N-layer, with its abundance of electrons, develops an excess of negatively charged electrons. This excess of electrons produces an electric force to push the additional electrons away. These excess electrons are pushed into the metal wire back to the bottom P-layer, which has lost some of its electrons.

This electrical current will continue flowing as long as radiant energy in the form of light strikes the cell and the pathway, or circuit, remains closed.

Current PV cell technology is not very efficient. Today's PV cells convert only about 10 to 14 percent of the radiant energy into electrical energy. Fossil fuel plants, on the other hand, convert from 30-40 percent of their fuel's chemical energy into electrical energy. The cost per kilowatt-hour to produce electricity from PV cells is presently three to four times as expensive as from conventional sources. However, PV cells make sense for many uses today, such as providing power in remote areas or other areas where electricity is difficult to provide. Scientists are researching ways to improve PV cell technology to make it more competitive with conventional sources.

Stay tuned for the 2nd part of this post, where we'll focus on solar thermal systems.

The bottom line is...

The future looks bright.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Charging Anything

By now, you know that Solar Arcadia has solar cell phone chargers to increase the battery life of your 3G iPhone, Blackberry Curve, Nokia e71, Sony xPeria x1, Samsung Instinct, LG Shine, or any other cool phone that you may own.

But this short video below will show that even people with older phones can go solar:

The bottom line is...

Our solar chargers work with just about anything, even ancient phones.

Monday, July 14, 2008

5 Random Solar-Related Facts

1. World energy consumption is expected to increase 40% to 50% by the year 2010, and the global mix of fuels--renewables (18%), nuclear (4%), and fossil (78%)--is projected to remain substantially the same as today; thus global carbon dioxide emissions would also increase 50% to 60%.

2. Among industrialized and developing countries, Canada consumes per capita the most energy in the world, the United Sates ranks second, and Italy consumes the least among industrialized countries.

3. Developing countries use 30% of global energy. Rapid population growth, combined with economic growth, will rapidly increase that percentage in the next 10 years.

4. The World Bank estimates that investments of $1 trillion will be needed in this decade and upwards of $4 trillion during the next 30 years to meet developing countries' electricity needs alone.

5. Residential appliances, including heating and cooling equipment and water heaters, consume 90% of all energy used in the U.S. residential sector.

The bottom line is...

Stick with Solar Arcadia, we'll be sure to fill you in on any solar-related information.

Why We Go Solar

Solar Energy and the Environment

In the 1970s, the push for renewable energy sources was driven by oil shortages and price increases. Today, the push for renewable energy sources is driven by a renewed concern for the environment.

Solar energy is the prototype of an environmentally friendly energy source. It consumes none of our precious energy resources, makes no contribution to air, water, or noise pollution, does not pose a health hazard, and contributes no harmful waste products to the environment.

There are other advantages too. Solar energy cannot be embargoed or controlled by any one nation. And it will not run out until the sun goes out.

The bottom line is...

Do it for the environment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just as Good as an iPhone

The original iPhone was capable of doing just about everything, and the new 3G iPhone can do even more. I'm sure you've heard about how great the phone is, so there's no need for me to get into that.

Let's say you really love it, but for some reason, you can't get one. Here are some problems you could be facing:
  • You can't get out of your two-year contract with Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or some other big phone company.
  • You're not eligible for an update with Cingular, and you don't want to pay the high price for the phone.
  • You love your Blackberry too much to trade it in for a phone without a traditional keyboard.
  • You're afraid that a new iPhone will come out in a month, making yours less cool.
Whatever the case may be, there might be a sensible solution. The iPod Touch!

Think about it. Most of the iPhone's best new features are tied into the iPhone 2.0 firmware update. Soon, Apple will release this same software for the iPod Touch (if they haven't already). This will allow iPod users to access the cool new applications that are available on the iPhone.

If you go this route, you won't need to worry about a contract.
Just keep the phone that you already have, and simply add the sleek iPod Touch to your pocket or purse. The iPod Touch looks like the iPhone's little brother, so most people won't be able to tell the difference. This will allow you to look just as hip as the iPhone owners. Which is the reason you want one in the first place, right?

The only major drawback is that you won't have the Internet at all times. But if you can deal with Wi-Fi connections not being available everywhere you go, then the iPod Touch might be a great alternative for you.

Whether you go with the iPhone or the iPod Touch, Solar Arcadia has the best solar chargers to keep it charged up.

The bottom line is...

The iPod Touch might be just as good as the iPhone.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Solar Hot Water Heating

In our Solar Thermal article, we gave you some information about how solar water heaters save money and the environment. This article will offer a little more information on how solar water heating works...

Water heating is usually the second leading home energy expense, costing the average family over $400, a year. Depending on where you live, and how much hot water your family uses, a solar water heater can pay for itself in as little as five years. A well-maintained system can last 15-20 years, longer than a conventional water heater.

A solar water heater works in the same way as solar space heating. A solar collector is mounted on the roof, or in an area of direct sunlight. It collects sunlight and converts it to heat.

When the collector becomes hot enough, a thermostat starts a pump. The pump circulates a fluid, called a heat transfer fluid, through the collector for heating. The heated fluid then goes to a storage tank where it heats water.

The hot water may then be piped to a faucet or shower head. Most solar water heaters that operate in winter use a heat transfer fluid, similar to antifreeze, that will not freeze when the weather turns cold.

Today over 1.5 million homes in the U.S. use solar heaters to heat water for their homes or swimming pools.

The bottom line is...

You should join the 1.5 million.

Monday, July 7, 2008

iPhone Lines

There's still 4 days until the official release of the new Apple iPhone 3G, but people are already in line. Some people have been in line for weeks. Don't believe me? Check out this video:

The July 11th release will be far more hectic than the original iPhone's release.

Good luck to everyone who is trying to score the coolest phone ever. Once you get your hands on one, be sure to stop by Solar Arcadia's iPhone page purchase your iPhone accessories.

The bottom line is...

You'd better get in line now if you plan on getting an iPhone on July 11th.

Creating Solar Panels

If you were wondering what it takes to create a solar cell phone charger, here's a video of a guy trying to explain the process:

His words are very informative, but he makes it sound so easy.

The bottom line is...

Listen to this guy, choose wisely!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Solar Televisions

The picture above shows a solar-powered LCD television created by Sharp. With it, you can watch tv wherever you can get sunlight.

I don't know how people are going to receive this. It may not fill a need the way solar cell phone chargers do, but it's good to see companies trying new things with solar panels.

The bottom line is...

Before you know it, all electronics will be solar-powered.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Solar Thermal

Research shows that an average household with an electric water heater spends about 25% of its home energy costs on heating water.

Solar water heaters offered the largest potential savings, with solar water-heater owners saving as much as 50% to 85% annually on their utility bills over the cost of electric water heating.

You can expect a simple payback of 4 to 8 years on a well-designed and properly installed solar water heater. (Simple payback is the length of time required to recover your investment through reduced or avoided energy costs.)
Solar water heaters do not pollute. By investing in one, you will be avoiding carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and the other air pollution and wastes created when your utility generates power or you burn fuel to heat your household water. When a solar water heater replaces an electric water heater, the electricity displaced over 20 years represents more than 50 tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions alone.

The bottom line is...

Solar water heaters will save you some money and help the environment.