# Section 5. Renewable Energy Sources Solar and Wind. What Do You See? Think About It. Investigate. Learning Outcomes

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3 Chapter 7 Earth s Natural Resources 6. In your group, brainstorm about ways to increase the efficiency of your solar water heater. Variables that you might explore include the role of insulation, diameter of the tubing, type of material in the tubing, and flow rate of the water through the system. If time and materials are available, conduct another test. Part B: Harnessing Wind Energy 1. Set up an anemometer as shown in the diagram below. You may want to color one of the cups with a marker to make it easier to count the revolutions. 2. To find the wind speed, count the number of revolutions per minute. Next, calculate the circumference of the circle (in feet) made by the middle of the rotating paper cups. Multiply the revolutions per minute by the circumference of the circle (in feet per revolution), and you will have the velocity of the wind in feet per minute. (This will be an underestimate, because the cups do not move quite as fast as the wind.) 3. Take your anemometer home during a weekend. This will give you a chance to make measurements at different times of the day and over two days. 4. Make a map of your house and the yard around the house. Plan to place the anemometer at different locations and make velocity measurements at different times of the day. 5. Using a watch, count the number of times the colored cups spins around in one minute. Use your calibration to convert this to wind velocity. a) Keep a record of the wind speeds you are measuring for the next few days. 6. Measure the wind speed at different times of the day. 780

5 Chapter 7 Earth s Natural Resources Solar energy is produced in the extremely hot core of the Sun. As you learned, this occurs through nuclear fusion. This is a process whereby hydrogen atoms are fused together to form helium atoms. A very small quantity of mass is converted to energy in this process. The ongoing process of nuclear fusion in the Sun s interior is what keeps the Sun hot. The surface of the Sun, although much cooler than the interior, is still very hot. Like all matter in the universe, the surface radiates electromagnetic energy in all directions. This electromagnetic radiation is mostly light, in the visible range of the spectrum. However, much of the energy is also in the ultraviolet range (shorter wavelengths) and in the infrared range (longer wavelengths). The radiation travels at the speed of light. It reaches Earth in about eight minutes. Earth is small and very far away from the Sun. Therefore, only a very small fraction of this energy reaches Earth. However, it is far more than enough, to provide all of Earth s energy needs, if it could be used in a practical way. The Sun has been producing energy in this way for almost five billion years. It will continue to do so for a few billion years more. Geo Words insolation: the direct or diffused shortwave solar radiation that is received on Earth's atmosphere or at its surface. Solar energy that reaches Earth is spread out over a large area. Therefore, capturing the Sun s energy is not easy. In any small area, it is not very intense. The rate at which a given area of land receives solar energy is called insolation. Insolation depends on several factors. These factors Figure 1 The tilt of Earth on its axis during winter and during summer. 782

6 Section 5 Renewable Energy Sources Solar and Wind include latitude, season, time of day, cloudiness of the sky, clearness of the air, and slope of the land surface. If the Sun is directly overhead and the sky is clear, the rate of solar radiation on a horizontal surface at sea level is about 1000 W/m 2 (watts per square meter). This is the highest value insolation can have on Earth s surface. If the Sun is not directly overhead, the solar radiation received on the surface is less. When the rays from the Sun are not direct, there is more atmosphere between the Sun and the surface. Some of the radiation is absorbed before it reaches Earth s surface. Insolation decreases when a surface is not perpendicular to the Sun s rays. This is because the surface presents a smaller crosssectional area to the Sun. Earth rotates on its axis once a day. It also revolves in an almost circular but slightly elliptical orbit around the Sun once a year. Earth s rotation axis is tilted about 23.5º from the plane of Earth s orbit around the Sun. (See Figure 1.) It points toward the Sun at one end of its orbit (in the Northern Hemisphere summer) and away from the Sun at the other end (in the Northern Hemisphere winter). In the Northern Hemisphere summer, when Earth s axis points toward the Sun, the Sun traces a path high in the sky. The hours of daylight are long. In winter, the Sun s path across the sky is much closer to the horizon. The hours of daylight are short. This has important effects on seasonal insolation and on building designs. Solar Heating Home heating is one of the main uses of solar energy. There are two basic kinds of solar heating systems: active and passive. In an active system, special equipment, in the form of a solar collector, is used to collect and distribute the solar energy. In a passive system, the home is designed to let in large amounts of sunlight. The heat produced from the light is trapped inside. Passive systems do not rely on special mechanical equipment. However, they are not as effective as active systems. Water heating is another major use of solar energy. Solar water heating systems for buildings have two main parts. They include a solar collector and a storage tank. The solar energy is collected with a thin, flat, rectangular box with a transparent cover. The bottom of the collector box is a plate that is coated black on the upper surface and insulated on the lower surface. This is shown in Figure 2. The solar energy that strikes the black surface is converted to heat. Cool water is circulated Figure 2 Flat plate collector. 783

7 Chapter 7 Earth s Natural Resources through pipes from the hot collector box to a storage tank. The water is warmed as it passes through the collector box. These collectors are not very expensive. In sunny regions they can provide most or all of the need for hot water in homes or swimming pools. Many large commercial buildings can use solar collectors to provide more than just hot water. A solar ventilation system can be used in cold climates to preheat air as it enters a building. The heat from a solar collector can even be used to provide energy for cooling a building, although the efficiency is less than for heating. A solar collector is not always needed when using sunlight to heat a building. Buildings can be designed for passive solar heating. These buildings usually have large, south-facing windows with overhangs. In winter, the Sun shines directly through the large windows, heating the interior of the building. In summer, the high Sun is blocked by the overhang from shining directly into the building. Materials that absorb and store the Sun s heat can be built into the sunlit floors and walls. The floors and walls then heat up during the day. At night, they slowly release the heat. Many designs for passive solar heating also provide day lighting. Day lighting is simply the use of natural sunlight to brighten up the interior of a building. Figure 3 Solar collectors on the roofs of buildings can be used to provide energy for heating water and regulating indoor climates. Photovoltaics Solar water heating can reduce the use of fossil fuels. Heating water using fossil fuels is only about 60 percent efficient. Electric water heating is about 90 percent efficient. However, the production of electricity from fossil fuels is only 30 to 40 percent efficient. Reducing use of fossil fuel for water heating also eliminates the air pollution. Generating electricity is another major use of solar energy. One common way is to use photovoltaic (PV) cells. These are used for many purposes. They are used to power toys, calculators, and roadside telephone call boxes. PV systems convert light energy directly into electricity. These systems are an important part of your lives. They are known as solar cells. Very simple systems power some of the things you might use. Some examples are small calculators and wristwatches. More complicated systems provide electricity for other purposes. Some examples are pumping water and powering communications equipment. Complicated systems are also used to light homes and run appliances. In a surprising number of cases, PV power is the cheapest form of electricity for performing these tasks. The efficiency of PV systems is not high. Yet, it is increasing. New materials are being developed for conversion of sunlight to electricity. The use of PV systems is growing quickly. 784

8 Section 5 Renewable Energy Sources Solar and Wind Wind Power People have been using wind power for hundreds of years to pump water from wells. Yet, it has only been in the past 35 years that communities have started to use wind power to produce electricity. Figure 4 shows wind turbines from an electricity-generating wind farm near Palm Springs, California. The triple-blade propeller is one of the most popular designs used in wind turbines today. Wind power can be used on a large scale to produce electricity for communities (wind farms). It can also be used on a smaller scale in households. Figure 5 shows typical wind velocities in various parts of the country. Texas leads in the generation of electricity from Figure 4 Wind turbines on a wind farm in California. wind turbines. (In 2010, it had a wind-power capacity of 9727 MW [megawatts], with several tens of thousands of wind turbines.) Other areas in the country have a high potential for wind power as well. These areas include the Rocky Mountains, the flat Midwest states, Alaska, and many more. Commercial wind turbines can have blades with a diameter as large as 60 m. Figure 5 Location of electricity-generating wind-power plants relative to wind power classes in the United States. Checking Up 1. How does the Sun produce solar energy? 2. What factors determine the rate at which a given area of Earth s land surface receives solar energy? 3. What are the differences between passive solar heating systems and active solar heating systems? 4. Why must solar energy systems occupy a much larger area, per unit of energy produced, than conventional systems that burn fossil fuels? 785

10 Section 5 Renewable Energy Sources Solar and Wind 7. Assume that you live in a community in eastern Colorado. a) Use the wind map to determine the number of wind turbines that would be needed to produce the electricity equivalent to a large electric power plant (1000 MW). Assume that each of the wind turbines has a blade diameter of 50 ft. b) If these wind turbines are replacing a coal-fired power plant that burns coal with a ratio of pounds of SO 2 per million Btu of 2.5, calculate the reduction in the amount of SO 2 emitted per year. (Note: 1 kwh = 3413 Btu.) c) What are some problems that might be encountered with the wind farm? 8. Preparing for the Chapter Challenge Your challenge is to find a way to meet the growing energy needs of your community. You have also been asked to think about how to reduce the environmental impacts of energy resource use. Using what you have learned, describe how some of the energy needs of your community could be accommodated by wind or solar power. Inquiring Further 1. Solar thermal electricity generation Research how a solar thermal power plant, such as the LUZ plant in the Mojave Desert in California, produces electricity. Diagram how such a system works. What are the kilowatt-hour costs of producing electricity using this method? What does the future hold for power plants of this kind? 2. Photovoltaic electricity Investigate photovoltaic electricity generation and discuss the results of your investigation with the class. 3. History of wind energy or solar energy Investigate how people in earlier times and in different cultures have harnessed Sun or wind energy. What developments have taken place in the past hundred years? How is wind energy being used today? Include diagrams and pictures in your report. 4. Wind farms Prepare a report on how electricity is generated on wind farms. Describe types of wind generators, types and sizes of wind farms, the economics of electricity production on wind farms, and the locations of currently operating wind farms in the United States. Include diagrams. 787

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