Solar Energy: An Enticing Alternative
Solar energy provides an enticing alternative to current energy supplies that are now being used. This is the most readily available source of energy which exceeds the energy requirements of the planet both now and in the future. In addition, as a green energy source, it is environmentally clean and free of charge. Scientists have overcome the difficulties of exploiting this energy source with imagination and an equal share of the attempt and mistake (Kazmierski & Beeby, 2014). However, overcoming the challenges that face its capture and use are still far from being fully solved and engineers are still on the drawing board coming up with various efficient ways to make sure the energy captured is utilized fully and properly.
The Potential of Solar Energy
Solar energy is the most readily available form of energy but it is still among the most non economical to exploit and utilize. It is in the public domain that fossil fuels and coal are all non-renewable sources of energy and their depletion is happening fast as the world’s energy needs are increasing annually (Strunz & Huu, 2014). The sun is the largest energy source in our solar system. Although we receive almost negligible solar rays, they are still more than enough to run all our day to day energy needs for decades. Plants have perfected the art of relying on the sun for nearly all of their internal biological activities. Solar energy presents an untapped energy source that is both clean and renewable, unlike fossil fuels which are widely used today. The diagram below provides statistical data for the annual energy consumption in an average home setting.
Source: (Khan and Arsalan, 2016)
Renewable Technologies in Building Engineering
The world has become more sensitized in matters concerning renewable technologies. The reliance on fossil fuels is slowly dwindling with more focus aimed at renewable sources of energy. A major reason of this has been the worsening of the planets climatic conditions, which has raised the red flag on some of the technologies that have been widely used for decades (Hosenuzzaman, et al, 2015). Various fields have started incorporating use of renewable technologies in their frameworks. This goes without saying that, engineering being one of the main areas where the renewable technologies are incorporated, has taken the pilot seat in trying to implement designs and structures that are majorly reliant on renewable technologies. It has become a norm for engineers to think of the most efficient ways to use up various renewable technologies in their designs and structures (Strunz & Huu, 2014). Design of more energy efficient building by using solar energy is a fete that has kept engineers on their toes, with each trying to outdo the other but still maintain the main focus of having an energy efficient structure. Various strategies that have seen the use of solar in buildings grow, have been implemented by engineers and are going to be discussed in this paper.
Heating of Water with Solar Energy
One of the main use of solar energy in modern building is heating of water meant for house chores. Buildings have incorporated panels on their roofs and a water piping system in some cases is twinned around the panel, to increase the surface area for more heat to get to the water (Stein & Buck, 2017). Electricity in most building was used to heat up water used for household chores and in some cases firewood in burners was used. This was expensive and dangerous too. The use of panels on the roofs of the houses was a long overdue solution to this problem. It became quite common and nearly all around the globe it is becoming standard to incorporate a solar water heating system in a design structure (Hosenuzzaman, et al, 2015). This was helpful to the occupants since the electric consumption was lowered and also the adoption of solar energy brought about sensitization of its potential. The diagram below shows the structure of a basic solar panel.
Source: (Kazmierski, and Beeby, 2014)
Solar Energy as Main Source of Electricity
Secondly, solar energy was incorporated in buildings as a main substitute to electricity as a main source of energy. Building structures with large plinth areas have incorporated solar panels in their design either as roofing or even in many recent cases, as windows. The solar panels trap sunlight rays converting them to usable electricity that powers some of the activities in the building. A lot of skyscrapers that are coming up are specifically targeting the use of solar as one of their alternative main source of energy (Khan & Arsalan, 2016). The large surface area exposed to the sun offers high potential in tapping of the sun’s rays. We currently have buildings that are using it to run some of their surveillance cameras, some outdoor internet connectivity devices and even various office activities like lighting. Additionally, some buildings have incorporated it as their energy source during the night instead of relying on electricity twenty four hours a day. Moreover, buildings are incorporating huge batteries that store up this energy that is later used in case of a power outage.
Solar Cookers in Modern Buildings
The third and last way in which buildings are becoming more energy efficient is by incorporating solar in some of their cookery spaces. Buildings that take advantage of sun rays by building concentrators in their kitchens that help in the preparation of foods (Prasad & Snow, 2014). This has not quite been taken up by many engineers due to its complexity but, in the near future this will be that norm. Solar cookers work by concentrating sun rays to generate heat high enough to be used in food preparation. (Hosenuzzaman, et al, 2015). In Africa, solar cookers are widely used and this can be attributed to the abundance of this renewable energy source. Engineers have appreciated the various advantages that come with solar cookers such no fumes or emission of gases, and are looking for ways that they can be used in modern buildings.
Conservation of energy is important especially in high energy consuming countries. It is up to engineers to craft various ways in which they can tap the use of renewable technologies to make sure that a balance is met between energy, cost and environmental sustainability. A lot of steps have been made but, there is still room for more action that engineers can take to make sure that the sustainability of buildings is met in their energy use (Hosenuzzaman, et al, 2015). More so, with the steady improvement of technology, it is becoming easier to tap these renewable technologies and incorporating them in structures to ensure energy is conserved. Use of renewable technologies will not only ensure sustainable building but a ripple effect will be created and other industries will appreciate their use.
- Hosenuzzaman, M., Rahim, N.A., Selvaraj, J., Hasanuzzaman, M., Malek, A.B.M.A. and Nahar, A., 2015. Global prospects, progress, policies, and environmental impact of solar photovoltaic power generation. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 41, pp.284-297.
- Kazmierski, T.J. and Beeby, S., 2014. Energy harvesting systems. Springer.
- Khan, J. and Arsalan, M.H., 2016. Solar power technologies for sustainable electricity generation–A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 55, pp.414-425.
- Prasad, D. and Snow, M., 2014. Designing with solar power: a source book for building integrated photovoltaics (BiPV). Routledge.
- Stein, W.H. and Buck, R., 2017. Advanced power cycles for concentrated solar power. Solar Energy, 152, pp.91-105.
- Strunz, K., Abbasi, E. and Huu, D.N., 2014. DC microgrid for wind and solar power integration. IEEE Journal of emerging and selected topics in Power Electronics, 2(1), pp.115-126.