There are various uses of Solar Energy. Farmers in Traditional Farming Communities used to solarise fields by living them empty after a deep ploughing during summers. It killed insects and pests. Human skin synthesizes vitamin-D when exposed to sunlight for short durations. Mothers used to make their babies sleep in the sun after oiling their bodies during winters in order to keep them healthy and strong. In brief, solar energy has following applications-
(1) Solar energy is converted into thermal energy for the functioning of solar cookers, solar water heaters, swimming pool water heaters, dryers, air heaters, room heaters, industrial heating systems etc.
(2) Solar energy is converted into electrical energy for lighting rural houses, hospitals, lodges etc.
(3) Solar electrical energy is used in irrigation pumps, driving vehicles, lighting solar lamps, and working of televisions and computers.
(4) Solar electrical energy is also used in artificial satellites.
The above are only a few applications of solar energy. In fact, solar energy has numerous applications known to man till today and numerous other applications are yet to be searched out. Still, we have a number of wonderful devices running by solar energy. Polymer based solar cells, solar refrigerators. Eco-friendly power generators, solar air crafts, solar desalination of water, solar street lighting systems etc. are some of the wonderful applications of solar energy.
Potential of Solar Energy in India-
Solar water heaters, air heaters, solar cookers, solar lanterns, etc. have been developed and deployed in different parts of the country. So far, over 10,00,000 sq. meter of collector area has been installed ranging from domestic solar water heaters of 50 to 200 litres capacity and up to 2,40,000 litres of hot water per day in industrial and commercial sectors.
In India, around 5.99 lakh solar cookers have been deployed. At Tirumala, in Andhra Pradesh, the world’s largest solar steam cooking system for cooking food form15, 000 people per day has also been installed. A solar air heating system have also been deployed for drying of agricultural and industrial produce, which has helped in saving great number of conventional fuels.
The Government of India has introduced a Solar Photovoltaic Demonstration and Utilization Programme. Under this programme, about 5.6 lakh solar lanterns, 3.42 lakh solar home systems, 54000 solar street lighting systems, 7,002 solar water pumping systems etc. were installed in the country till March 2006, in addition to standalone power plants cumulative to a 2.9 MWP. In addition to the above, about 594 hamlets and 2483 remote villages have also been equipped with solar arrays and have been electrified by using Solar Photovoltaic systems.
Limitations and Environmental Implications of Solar Energy
In spite of being universal, decentralized and non-polluting in nature, solar energy has some inherent limitations that are mentioned below-
(i)The intensity of solar radiations is variable throughout the day. It is also affected by weather conditions like presence of clouds, fogs and mist etc. On the other hand, the intensity of solar radiation varies from season to season.
(ii)The intensity of solar energy is low as compared to the intensity of energy of coal, oil and gas.
(iii)The installation of solar energy plants needs larger area which is usually managed by clearing vast tracts of forests.
(iv)The fabrication of thin film solar cells needs cadmium which is poisonous and carcinogenic. The discarded Photovoltaic panels may contaminate the surrounding area by cadmium which may join the local food chain and may contaminate the biotic environment.
(v)While silicon is formed from silica, carbon dioxide gas is produced. This gas may contribute to the greenhouse effect after joining the upper layers of the atmosphere.
(vi)The dust of silicon may cause occupational hazards.
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