Posted by: shoji | September 25, 2007

The New Solar

There’s a lot of investment in solar technology nowadays. Global warming is making for a market opportunity. (FYI: next market opportunity is water.)

Photovoltaics are the key to transforming solar energy into electricity, and most technologies use some sort of silicon-based material for the process.

Going back several decades, solar cells were much less efficient and much more expensive than today. Instead of residential solar-electricity units, personal homes sometimes used solar energy to provide hot water. In fact, some “solar farms” today are designed to heat water which runs a steam turbine, thus generating electricity, but I don’t think these designs work on the small, personal home scale.

My idea is a combination of the solar-electric panel and solar water-heater units. In this case, we have a solar water heater that heats water. The energy from the warm water is then used to make electricity.

This would be brilliant if there was warm water-to-electricity converter. Go invent this and call me. We’ll have ’em knocking down our doors. Maybe the folks at EcoWatts can help us?

If you want something more realistic, try the story below.

The Sun Lizard – Solar Air Conditioning (TreeHugger)
In basic terms the Sun Lizard harnesses the sun to heat and cool a house. How it does this is a tad more complex. Though not radically so. In summer a photovoltaic panel collects solar juice to power a series of fans that encourage fresh cool air to enter the house from vents at ground level. Come winter you switch modes and now a box on your roof or wall comes into play. A covering sheet of low-iron glass allows for maximum clarity so oodles of sun can enter the box and heat a bunch of steel baffles. These are angled in such a way as to give the collector a capture area more a third greater than its external size. This heated air is then fed back into the house via ducting, again at ground level, to warm rooms. It is continually circulating and reheating (up to 50°C) the air. All without grid power.

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Responses

  1. You are describing solar thermal electricity. The key to generating electricity from heat is to concentrate a lot of heat into one point. They do that with mirrors and lenses. Then you use an efficient heat-to-electricity device – the most popular is the Stirling engine.

    Warm water doesn’t carry enough energy to be effective in the conversion process – there has to be a steep temperature different to make it effective.

  2. Innovation Catalyst: I agree fully with your comment.

    IF (big if) we could invent a means to take the energy stored in warm water and convert it into electricity, then we’d be onto something. There’s definitely a lot of energy that can be stored in water– it’s a terrific “battery”.

    How to perform energy transduction with a not steep temperature difference is the subject of a great invention.

  3. I’ve always wondered about something like a giant hollow ring that is filled with water. You put the top quarter above ground and the rest below ground. Wait for the top part to get warm then rotate it below ground so that the warm water wants to flow back up (in one direction). Throw some turbines in the ring and you’ve got electricity. I’m just not sure if the movement of the warm water would be strong enough or if you could find an efficient way of rotating the ring to make a net gain of energy.

  4. […] New Solar (Part II) I blogged previously about a not-yet-invented transducer that converts warm/hot water into electricity, thus combining […]


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