A Photo-voltaic power plant. Image credit oorjasolar.com

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Natural Resources: Energy:Small scale energy sources and plants:Solar energy

  • Solar energy is converted into electrical energy in two ways
  • The first is through the use of solar panels
  • These are also known as photo voltaic power plants for reasons that will be explained below
  • A solar panel consists of a thick lens placed on photo voltaic cells all held together in an aluminium dish.
  • Rays from the sun hit the glass lens.
  • The solar energy through the cell is converted into electrical energy.
  • This is used for lighting, cooking and powering radios, televisions and other domestic appliances.
  • The panel is placed on a roof clear of shadows to trap maximum energy.
  • Wiring is done as in other electricity distribution methods in a home.
  • The amount of solar energy produced is dependent upon the amount of sunshine received, intensity of that sunshine and size of solar panels installed.

The Solar Furnace at Pyrénées-Orientales. Image credit MediaWiki

  • The second used method is thermal solar technology
  • In one instance polished mirrors are used
  • The mirrors are arranged in a parabolic fashion to reflect the sun’s rays onto a focal point
  • An example is the solar furnace at Pyrénées-Orientales in France
  • Temperatures can reach as high as 3500°C at the center
  • The heat is used to heat water which is turned into steam
  • The steam is then used to drive turbines and generate electricity
  • Small home plants are also installed on rooftops used to heat water for domestic use
  • Besides these two there are other solar technologies out there

To access more topics go to the O Level Geography Notes page