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What you should know (and do) about solar energy

By  Sep 7, 2007

Topics: Programming, C/C++

Photo-electric cells that convert sunlight into electricity are becoming trendy in some overhyped architectural designs and posh projects in the West but they are more of a problem than a solution. There is a much better, simpler and effective way for you to utilize the sun's energy without  having your government spend billions on grandiose solar farms.

Millions of words have been poured on what should be done to minimize the use of fossil energy. And yet, whenever it comes to practical guidelines the discussion is often led to the all-too-familiar conclusion: "use solar energy".

The sun is unquestionably a renewable, clean and prosperous source of green energy. It will remain so in the next 10 billion years or so, so why not use it as our main source of clean energy? Alas, solar energy is a myth. By "solar energy" I mean: photo-electric cells that convert sunlight into electricity. As solar cells are becoming trendy in some overhyped architectural designs and posh projects in western countries, they are a cure worse the disease. Here's what they don't tell you about solar energy:

  1. The cells are very inefficient and cost enormous amounts of money
  2. solar farms occupy many acres of land that could have been used for growing crops, grazing, landfills etc.
  3. No matter what how efficient they ever get, solar cells produce energy only during daylight.  Imagine a flight carrier whose fleet is active only 3 days every week or a nuclear plant that produces electricity only 12 hours every day.
  4. It's getting even worse: solar cells contain highly-toxic materials. Disposing of such cells will cause more damage to the environment than burning fossil fuels would.

I'm not proposing a breakthrough solution to the problems I've listed; surely the manufacturers will come up with solutions and workarounds to these problems. In the meantime however, there is a much better way to exert the sun's energy without spending a dime, sacrificing land or polluting the environment: dry your laundry in the sunlight. In too many counties and countries there are bylaws that prohibit this environment-friendly solution. Now is the time to contact elected members of your council, parliament or congress and ask them to change these outdated bylaws. The amounts of energy from non-renewable sources wasted on drying laundry are truly enormous. Unlike other conveniences in life, drying laundry in the sun is the most effective way to harness the sun's energy without any damage to the environment. No excuses please: if you don't have a graden or backyard you can dry your laundry in the porch or even indoors. As for the "suburban look and feel" that flaunting clothes in your balcony might cause: there are decorative shades that hide the laundry from passersby while still letting sunlight dry them properly. As a bonus, you'll be saving quite a lot on your energy bill every month.

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