THE USE OF SOLAR POWER

Hold out your hand towards a sunbeam. It feels warm, does it not? No wonder, for only a little more than eight min­utes ago it left the sun's surface whose temperature is assumed to be about 6000° С In that short period of time it has trav­elled about 93 million miles on its way to the earth in order to light your room, to cause the trees to grow, to produce wind power and to create a lot of irreplaceable and wonderful things.

The power the earth constantly receives from solar radia­tion is about 35,000 times the annual power consumption of mankind. However, only a minute part of it is being utilized so far. As a matter of fact, the conversion of solar radiation directly into electric power by some efficient means has been the aim of Russian and foreign scientists, inventors, and en­gineers for at least one hundred years.

Sun power can be employed on the one hand directly as heat for space heating, water heat­ing and certain other purposes and on the oth­er hand it might be util­ized for the production of electricity. In the lat­ter case, electric current can be obtained as fol­lows: 1) by using fuel for thermal power plants since the Sun is known to be the primary source of all power stored in fuel; 2) by heating boil­ers or air-heaters in ther­mal power plants with sunbeams concentrated by collectors; 3) by con­verting radiation into electric voltage by means of thermocouples or pho­to-voltaic cells.

Generally speaking, sun power can be util­ized, too, through falling or moving water. The heat of the Sun annually evaporates millions of tons of water from the oceans, seas, and rivers, lifting it high in the air. The water vapour is then carried away to various parts of the earth where some of it falls as rain, the latter (now, water again), in its turn, flow­ing into rivers and back into oceans. Provided we construct a dam across the river, we create a reservoir, a so-called man-made sea. From the reservoir or waterfalls water may be directed to the hydro-electric station which houses the turbines, the generator as well as other suitable and necessary equipment. The force of the falling water rotates the blades of the turbine, the latter driving the electric generator. In this manner, the mechanical power in running water, sometimes called white coal, is turned into electrical power. However, we have just observed that it receives its power from the sun.

In the southern countries there are lots of solar installa­tions. Sun heaters are used in both town and country to pro­vide heat for various purposes. Russian scientists designed and created valuable instruments and appliances to be operated by solar heat and light. Semiconductor photoelectric devices find a wide application both in our science and industry. As the reader is certain to remember, devices of this kind and solar batteries are usually installed in the Russian sputniks and other spaceships.

For want of space it is impossible to mention here all our achievements in this important field of science.

Scientists all over the world will continue, of course, to look for ways of making semiconductors even more efficient. At the same time, they will do their best to find new methods of converting sun power directly into electricity. Who knows, you or a friend of yours will perhaps be the one to come out with the best possible answer to the problem under considera­tion.

Exercises






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