Solar energy is the popular term for now days, anything that is renewable energy. The concept of solar energy was but the spark that has since ignited a revolution. Solar revolves around getting the most out of thermal dynamics, by spending the least amount of energy possible. “Sol” is Latin for sun, and “solar” is that which is of the sun. From elementary school we learn the importance of the sun in our lives, and somewhere along the line everyone that stays in school ends up learning how valuable to every living organism on this planet the sun really is. Solar power, solar energy, solar panels, solar light, solar living, solar this, solar that… The list of terms and technologies that thrive in the scientific and yet not so scientific solar community are living examples of a revolutionary concept in how energy works and how it is used.
Solar energy is coined as the conversion of solar light into electricity. This seems to be the popular notion of solar. But solar is far more than just electricity or hot water heating. The sun creates energy by burning Hydrogen. The explosions are what produce the absurd amounts of “energy”, or solar light. Solar light hits the earth’s atmosphere and causes lots of things to happen, but the more important effects are when solar light hits the surface and helps plants and animals grow, develop and breathe correctly. What one organism breaths another exhales and vice-versa. Depending on how much solar light hits the planet in any given direction, will determine the temperature, which in turn will determine the kinds of animals and plants that inhabit the region.
The first solar panels that existed were photovoltaic which means they capture the suns energy and convert it into voltaic energy. But there is more than one kind of solar panel. The photosynthetic solar panel (for example) is probably most likely the next solar generation, because it works in the same way as chlorophyll. The photosynthetic solar panel is transparent with a colored liquid that acts as a conducting agent when solar light penetrates the transparent and flexible plastic surface hitting the artificial chlorophyll (stimulating the molecules to agitate) and thereby causing an electrical current. As far as solar panels go however, most manufacturers are still dealing with photovoltaic cells and rechargeable solar batteries, photosynthetic can be very hard to come by. Photosynthetic solar panels can be used as mosaics, windows, sky lights…etc. Architecturally speaking, photosynthetic solar panels are versatile and aesthetic, but for the moment, almost not an option for consumers as they appear (in University Teachers eyes) to be a prototype solar technology.
While definitely a market niche, photosynthetic solar panels have too little investment at the moment to really get any pragmatic tests done. Solar water heating is very efficient and widely used to conserve energy bills. And that is probably the key to understanding the entire economical and political structure of urban sustainability. Energy distribution. Electricity in our country is dependant on a network that is dependent on one source, the local hydro-electric power generators. Solar philosophies try to set up less dependant structures and create more independent structures. Solar living would introduce alternative, renewable and sustainable energy resources, for automobiles, heating, lighting, communication, food, water and waste management. Solar communities can reap the greatest rewards from the solar sun that is the nucleus of our solar system and still maintain both quality of life as well as maintain itself in harmony with Nature. All we need to do is try to “Think Solar”.