Engineering Ethics

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Solar energy

The major sources of energy supply to the world are crude oil and hydroelectric power. However, these sources have various shortcomings that have necessitated to the innovation of different sources of power referred to as alternative energy or renewable energy. The limitations include that they can get replenished after a given period and also that generates large amounts of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Alternative sources of energy are renewable, free and have lower carbon emissions. Alternative sources of energy include solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, biofuels and tidal power.

Solar power refers to electricity that gets generated by converting the sun energy into electricity. Solar electricity gets generated from sunlight shining onto photovoltaic solar panels. Solar electricity is different to solar hot water or solar heating systems in which the solar power gets used to heat water or air. The photovoltaic solar cells or concentrated solar power plants convert solar energy directly into electricity. The concentrating solar power plants collect the heat power from the sun radiation to heat a fluid that produces steam that drives a generator to produce electricity. A solar cell (Photovoltaic cell) comprises of many layers of silicon-based material and transforms solar power into electricity rather than heat. When the sun rays strike the photons, particles of solar energy get reflected, pass through or get absorbed. The photons that absorb energy generate electricity. The solar power generated then gets stored in batteries.

Solar energy offers various advantages when used to generate electricity. One, solar energy has a renewable source. Solar energy is cost-effective compared to other sources of energy such as petroleum and hydroelectric power. Solar energy generation involves little or no maintenance since there are no moving parts.

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