This is an exciting time to be involved in solar technology. There is a renewed and growing interest in applying techniques which have been around for a long time but have been ignored due to the cheap and easy access to fossil fuels.
Nuclear power plant accidents and the suppression of the truth about its dangers have made people wary of giving permission to build new ones. Coal fired plants along with our love of the automobile and its dependence on petroleum to run it have created the ecological disaster we see today.
Each of us shares a deep responsibility for the legacy we leave behind for future generations. There have been so many wonderful technological advances which can be applied to making use of the sun's energy to supply our needs and make life comfortable.
Many still think that if they make the move to solar energy they will have to endure tremendous discomfort. Once they see how "normal" a solar house can be the interest level begins to rise. Lots of people have seen former vice president Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" about global warming but don't really know what to do to begin the changes in lifestyle needed. Tons of resources are now available to get educated about what's happening and what you can do.
Switching over to a more ecologically sound lifestyle should be guilt free. However, it is sort of like going on a diet. The right diet is usually not painful but you do have to start. The changes won't happen by themselves.
Find out all of the ways your home uses and loses energy. What are your requirements? Finally, what can you do to reduce your energy consumption? Your energy provider can, most likely, provide you with an energy audit to show you where you may be wasting it. So go ahead, take the plunge. Learn more about what you can do. You'll be glad you did.
If there's one thing that has been self evident since the beginning of this millennium, it is that we cannot depend on utility companies to provide us with stable prices for our energy needs. It isn't entirely their fault. In a market based economy, businesses will sell and charge what people are willing to buy and pay.
An interest in alternative forms of energy is nothing new. In the United States people have become accustomed to paying some of the lowest prices for electricity, natural gas and gasoline, anywhere in the industrialized world.
It takes man-made or natural disasters every few years to shake us out of our complacency and realize that we should give serious consideration to energy that is less dependent on fossil fuels. In 2005 hurricane Katrina destroyed major petroleum processing plants in Louisiana and Mississippi and the oil industry immediately took advantage by sending prices of gasoline soaring and making tens of billions of dollars in profits.
Depending on the kind of relationship that the United States has had with petroleum producing countries particularly in the Middle East has determined the price that consumers have paid for everything from vacation travel to food items.
Petroleum is inextricably intertwined in every part of life in an industrialized society, from the asphalt in the roads we drive on to the packaging of the food we eat. In the northern climates a huge amount of energy is used simply to heat our homes and water. Using solar energy as an alternative to oil and gas can substantially reduce the amount you pay to stay warm.
We all know that being in the sun makes us feel warm and good. There are ways to harness the energy that gives us this warmth reliably. Solar energy is free and is our only truly renewable resource. You essentially have free energy for heating, cooling and electricity for as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
There is an initial cost of capturing and converting this energy into a useable form. There is also a nominal cost of maintaining the equipment. However, aside from that, once your system is up and running the cost is recovered over a period of time.
All of us know that the sun's heat can be intense enough to cause highways to buckle sometimes. People often choose light colored vehicles in hot climates because darker colors tend to get much hotter. On extremely hot days we are warned not to leave children or pets in parked cars in the sun. The temperatures quickly rise to dangerous levels. Knowledge of these basics allows us to come up with ways to capture this fabulous heat source and make it work for us.
The principle behind capturing and using solar energy is actually quite simple. Devices known as solar collectors capture the heat from the solar radiation. The heat collected is stored in a heat reservoir until it is needed. This heat is then transferred to the item to be heated either passively, using natural principles of heat transference, or actively by means of pumps or fans.
If you are relatively handy with some basic construction techniques you can build your own solar heating system which can include heating your house in winter and providing hot water. Of course you can also capture solar energy to convert to electricity to run many of the appliances you have in your home.
It is encouraging to see that more people have become aware of the harmful effects of carbon emissions produced by industrialized countries and that they are starting to realize that something has to be done. The task seems overwhelming but each of us doing our own small bit can make a huge impact.
We're all in this together.