Solar Energy and Power

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Category: Renewable energy

Solar Steam Train

CREDIT: By Oxyman [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Basically, we all are aware that solar energy can be used to generate electricity or heat for our homes or whatever machine in question that may be using the solar technology. What we may not know however, is that if combined with technology from a steam engine then the solar powered steam originating from the sun can be harnessed as solar steam power and used to manufacture clean mechanical energy as well which can be used in the working of a solar steam generator such as the idea for a solar steam train.

Steam engines in the olden times used firewood or coal to burn and boil water in a reservoir to produce steam concentrated at high pressures which is useful in rotating a piston by the steam engine but these methods produced a lot of soot, smoke and carbon emissions, harmful to the environment, which contributed to activities aimed at finding a newer more reliable and less wasteful steam generator.

This saw the proposal of the solar steam train come to be.

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The use of solar may be a bit less efficient as compared to the regular more polluting fuels but it is a lot more environmentally friendly which is a better win on any day. Since the energy given off by the sun is in abundance, pollution free and is as well free of charge, it doesn’t make it unreasonable to want to convert it and use it mechanically to drive our machines-in this case, the solar steam train. The sun’s energy however is dissipated across a wide region and to be able to harness it would mean concentrating it at one certain point to produce enough heat to convert water into pressurized steam.

A few components are used in this process such as a solar collector, which is the lens used to concentrate the sun’s rays to a certain point where it can be collected, the heat transfer point where the sunlight is focused onto a metal transfer case which allows for the heating of water to turn it into steam with supporting high temperature and high pressure equipment and finally the steam engine which is the chamber that focuses the pressurized steam and normal atmospheric pressure to move pistons which in turn move shafts which are then used to turn the mechanical apparatus.

It however does have some challenges facing it before its successful integration to make a working solar steam engine such as; the amount of power dissipated from a steam engine is not the same as from an internal combustion engine which produces significantly more power output. It may take more than one steam engine to do the equivalent work of one internal combustion engine. They also require more regular maintenance as compared to ordinary engines.

Solar steam power is also focused purely on the sun and as such is limited to day times and clear skies but ways are being worked on that will see steam produced from solar energy being stored for use at times when solar energy is unavailable. To provide enough heat from the sunlight as well that can be used to heat water and create steam needs concentrated light which would need large reflective mirrors placed at a central location with no obstruction most probably the top of the train. These large lenses or as well parabolic mirrors can be used, are very expensive and putting up a number of these together enough for the project will be expensive. They also have to constantly be aligned to follow the movement of the sun.

Though the use of solar steam technology for trains is not as efficient or even convenient, it is a non-polluting energy source and with continued improvements to technology and solar steam energy to be specific, it will find practical use in the near fast-approaching future.

Steam As Energy Storage

Credit: CSIRO [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The world is going green. With each passing day, we learn of new evidence that anthropogenic causes are the leading causes of climate change and global warming. In recognizing that we as human beings are the main culprits in the destruction of mother nature, we are now diverting more of our resources to finding new and cleaner means of powering our economies. Importantly, the financial resources and manpower being invested in these kinds of research is aimed at ensuring that the renewable and sustainable energy sources we exploit can be done so economically. Otherwise, the drive to go fully sustainable will not be tenable.

One of the ways of making renewable energy sources, solar energy in particular, economical is to enhance the storage potential possible so as to even out the peaks and troughs characteristic of solar power generation. This means that by storing the excess solar energy produced during peak hours when the sun is shining the brightest, you can use the stored energy for when production dips significantly due to lack of solar radiation (at night) or there being less than stellar conditions for solar energy production (cloudy days).

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While many people will consider batteries as the only way to store energy, there are many other ways of storing solar energy. One alternative to batteries is the concept of steam as energy storage. The idea itself is not new. It was invented in 1874 by Andrew Bettis Brown, a Scottish engineer. However, what is new is the way the concept is implemented. With new technology and new material, it is now possible to store solar energy using steam in a cost-effective and efficient manner, making solar energy production more lucrative and reliable.

How Steam As Energy Storage Works

Just like any other energy storage technology, steam as energy storage works by charging and discharging.

The Charge – The charging process involves filling the steam storage tank half-full with cold water. Thereafter, steam generated through solar heating is blown into the tank through perforated pipes located near the bottom of the tank. As steam rises, some of it will condense and heat the water in the tank. The remaining steam will penetrate the water and fill the empty space left at the top of the tank. At the end of the charging process, the water will have significantly risen in temperature, pressure, and water level (up to about three-quarters of the tank).

The Discharge – For discharging, steam can be drawn out of the tank to drive a steam turbine that produces electricity (or the steam can be used as is in manufacturing processes). During the discharge process, the pressure will continuously drop as more and more steam is released. However, the reduction in pressure causes the water left in the tank to boil and release more steam, thereby constantly recharging the tank with steam until the overall system does not have ample pressure and steam to produce more steam. The gradual reduction in temperature and pressure allows the energy stored to be released gradually.

A good example of this technology in use is the PS10 solar power plant in Spain near Seville. There are even newer and better versions of such system, including EnergyNest AS and Aalborg CSP A/S. An even more audacious plan to use this technology was mooted – a fireless locomotive in Sacramento back in 2009. The plan was to install thermal solar energy harvesters in portions of the Sacramento Rail Yards to collect solar energy. The energy produced by PG&E steam plant would also be used to supplement energy supply around the area. However, the vast majority of the steam was to be used to charge and recharge fireless steam locomotives that are used in the popular tourist trains.

Want To Learn About Solar Energy? Try Some Of This Advice!

Solar energy is the answer to the world’s energy problems. This is a constantly, completely renewable source of power that will continue to thrive for centuries to come. No other solution, even other renewable sources, are as capable, plentiful, and efficient. A few of the key benefits are discussed below.

Look for installations that have technology that doesn’t rely completely on the schedule of the sun. Most newer panels will be able to store some energy while the sun is up, even if it is cloudy. This will provide you with energy any time of day or night. This is helpful if you use power in your home at nighttime.

Get quotes from several contractors before signing any solar energy installation company. Just as with any other construction product, it pays to shop around before you commit to a particular company. Check out their reviews online and their standing with the Better Business Bureau. A little research ahead of time can save you a big headache later.

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Before you invest in a solar energy system, find other homeowners in your areas who use solar panels. Ask them how much energy they are able to generate thanks to their system and find out how much the installation cost them. This will give you a better idea of what to expect.

You should find solar panel vendors located in your area and have them inspect your property to determine what kind of panels would be best for you and how many panels will be needed. There are many vendors on the Internet but working with a professional located in another state means they might not be familiar with weather conditions.

If you are a business owner and you are thinking of changing your energy system over to renewable solar energy, see if you can get any tax deductions for doing so. Often times the government will offer incentives to companies who agree to switch over to a more green energy source.

Solar energy can help save you money on your utility bill. The sun’s energy is free for you to use, and can help you save money when you have solar energy panels installed on your home or place of business. If you want to learn how you can save money with solar energy, call a professional in your area.

One of the quickest and cheapest ways to put the power of solar energy to work in your home or office is pathway lighting. Solar lights take in the sun daily and use the energy each night. It is simple to install then and make outdoor spaces charming.

Solar panels are most often installed in areas that give them the most sunlight exposure, however things can change over time. This means rechecking the location frequently to ensure nothing is casting a shadow on your panels.

If you are building a new home, now is the time to factor in solar energy! Ask a consultant to design windows that warm your home in winter while saving you a bundle on heating. Consider planting trees for shade and leaving space in the yard for solar panels too. Building solar energy into a new home is much easier than adding it onto an old one!

Have you ever been without power during a winter storm, resulting in you freezing and all your refrigerated food going bad? Instead of using a generator which will only provide some of the power requirements in your house, use solar energy. Swapping over your system can really help you to prevent power failures in the future.

If you are located in the Northern hemisphere, your solar panels should be facing south. People who live in the Southern hemisphere should install their panels facing north. Putting them in any other way will defeat the entire purpose since the panels will not have a chance to collect a large amount of energy from the sun.

If you lease solar panels to save the upfront costs, check the contract for the possibility of transferring the lease. If you sell your home or building that panels are installed in within the lease period, you want to be able to legally transfer the lease to the new owners of the property.

It is vital that the person who installs your solar power system is actually licensed to do so. An installer who is not licensed may install your solar panels incorrectly, or they may violate local regulations or your installation may not be protected by any guarantee. In addition, a licensed installer can provide you with great information about these regulations that an unlicensed installer cannot.


If you cannot afford or simply do not want to completely go solar right now, you can partially go solar. If this applies to you, then determine small ways you can do this. There are two ways that you can accomplish this. The first way is to use window mountable solar panels that you can use to charge your electronic devices. Another option is to purchase camping accessories that are powered by solar energy. Even small amounts of saving add up over time.

Look into portable solar energy battery packs. These can be extremely useful when you are somewhere that does not have access to power. For example, it could be used to charge your cell phone while you are camping in a remote location. It has recently become very popular, and because of this, it is relatively inexpensive.

If you have animals that require electric fencing to contain them, use solar powered fencing units to provide power for them. A great advantage to these systems is that they are completely mobile, and can be easily moved. If you are a horse owner who enjoys overnight horse-camping, the fencer can be easily taken along.

This is only the beginning of a cleaner future operating on a cleaner, renewable source of power. It starts with the small changes made today by individuals everywhere. Of course, there is always some hesitation before such an important transition, but the topics covered earlier are enough to earn the idea a second thought.

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