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Solar Energy: Part Two!

The history of renewable sources dates back to 1860 when French investor Augustin Mouchot invented the world’s first solar energy system. He believed that coal, which fueled much of the Industrial Revolution would one day run out, and set out to find a way to convert solar energy into a usable form of power. His designs were so successful that he gained full funding from the French government. He presented one of his most ambitious devices at the Universal exhibition in Paris in 1878, winning the gold medal for his machine that powered an ice maker with nothing but the sunbeams. With his invention, Mouchot became the first to create a solar energy system. Then in London in 1876, Professor Williams Grylls Adams and his student Richard Evans Day discovered it was possible to convert solar energy directly into electricity without the use of heat or moving parts. They used the chemical selenium in multiple experiments and found that when it was struck by light, selenium produced electrical energy. Then in 1888, Charles F. Brush invented the first windmill that was used to generate electricity on a farm in Cleveland, Ohio. by 1908, there were 72 wind turbines generating electricity in Denmark and were widespread across the United States by the 1930s. The use of wind turbines continued to accelerate and by 2016 , 341,320 wind turbines were being utilized worldwide.

As of today, renewable energy makes up 26% of the world electricity and is expected to increase to 30% by 2024. Some scientists speculate that it is possible to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050. However, this requires one key step, and that is finding an efficient way to store large amounts of renewable energy for long periods of time. Some say that the energy made from solar and wind power can easily be stored in a battery. This, however, is not the case. The batteries on the market for these types of applications are larger versions of the batteries found in our phones, and can only store energy for a certain amount of time. Furthermore, different areas have high demands for energy during different seasons. For example, areas with high temperatures in the summer will require more energy for air conditioning, while other areas will require more energy during the winter for heating. This problem can be solved with a method called underground thermal storage. This process is based on the fact that regardless of the temperature above, the temperature of the Earth at 15 meters deep is always the same; 10 degrees Celsius ( or 50 degrees Fahrenheit). The planet’s soil provides insulation, and the insulation is what can store the energy. With enough insulation, the heat can be stored for months, and when needed, it can be delivered to nearby homes via pipes. Not only does this method make energy accessible when most needed, but it can also be stored in large amounts if the right amount of insulation is present. This is very similar to the current pumped thermal electrical storage system, which stores heat energy in hot material, such as water or gravel, inside an insulated tank.

BY: Tauba Ashrafi

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