For centuries, inventors and entrepreneurs marveled at the idea of harnessing sunlight for the betterment of humanity. “So long as the sun shines, man will be able to develop power in abundance,” Thomas Edison.The main reason for the solar boom is the rapidly falling cost of photovoltaic cells – the industry saw a price drop of nearly 80 percent in just four years from 2008 to 2012. In the mid-1970s, it took $96 to install one watt of solar energy. Nowadays that cost is just 68 cents, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Dubai set a new world record for solar power costs with the unveiling of bids as low as 3 cents per kilowatt hour for its new 800-megawatt Sheikh Maktoum Solar Park Phase III. China is currently the big leader in solar energy – in 2013 the country became the largest global installer, and it is now also the largest producer of solar power, with 43 gigawatts of installed capacity. Here are 9 clever ways to harness the power of the sun.
#1. Solar water heater
Solar energy is clean and efficient; its source is unlimited sunlight and it emits nothing when converted to energy, unlike conventional electricity. Solar water heaters are basically boxes that are topped by a sheet of transparent glass. Sunlight is let in and a certain amount of the heat is prevented from escaping. The bottom of the box has a reflector that focuses sunlight on a metal tube that is positioned in the tank’s centre. The tube can be filled with water or antifreeze. Antifreeze transfers its heat to the water every time it’s recycled through the solar heater.