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Facts About Solar Energy – Little Known, Yet Interesting

March 25, 2008

Solar EnergyEver wished you could win more games of Trivial Pursuit? Or go on a long winning streak of some trivial game show? Well, you have to start your trivial knowledge somewhere, so how about we give you some interesting facts about solar energy for your first category? Let the facts begin.

Which country uses the most solar energy?

If you guessed the United States, you’re wrong. Britain? Nope, try again. Brazil? Not yet. Germany? Bingo. Ethiopia? Germany was the right answer.

In spite of its location way up above the equator and its relatively small population, Germany currently uses more solar energy than any other country. That blows holes in the common assumptions made in the northern states that solar energy isn’t a plausible local energy solution.

Was Albert Einstein involved with solar energy?

Of course, he was! Did you think the guy who defined the equation for energy wouldn’t know the facts about solar energy? In fact, though his work in solar energy was overshadowed by things like relativity and nuclear weapons, it had a large part to do with his Nobel Peace Prize for Science in 1921. Albert Einstein in fact was responsible for numerous solar experiments with early photovoltaic solar panels. The only question is whether this is what made his hair stand up in all directions.

Can raw solar energy, without any sort of power cells, really boil water?

Yes, it can. In fact, we’ve even known how to do it for a long time. In Africa, scientists have taught people how to sterilize water bottles by placing them on top of dark surfaces. But to get water to the point of boiling, all you need is one of those handy little solar cookers from the 18th century. Or, you can get a full solar oven if you’d rather. The solar oven was invented in 1830 by John Herschel, an astronomer.

Are Einstein’s photovoltaic panels still in use today?

No, but kind of yes. Photovoltaic solar panels are still used today, but in the 1950s they were given a silicon base and became much more efficient than they had been when Einstein was doing his research. Silicon is a product of the seemingly unlimited resource we call sand. It only takes 1 ton of silicon to produce enough photovoltaic cells to make as much electrical energy as can be made from 500,000 tons of coal. Further, you don’t make all kinds of air pollutants when you use silicon based photovoltaic solar panels, as you of course do make when you burn fossil fuels for electricity production.

How has inflation affected the cost of photovoltaic panels?

Are you kidding? After all of that hyperinflation during the 1970s? Actually, photovoltaic panels cost about 200% less than they did in the 1970s and are in some cases twice as efficient at the conversion of solar energy into electricity as they were in the 1970s. So you get about four times as much electricity for your money from photovoltaic panels now. Sounds like hyper deflation to me. Seriously, it is just a matter of improved photovoltaic production technology.

So there you go! You have now mastered some facts about solar energy that might come in handy during your next game of Trivial Pursuit.

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One Response to “Facts About Solar Energy – Little Known, Yet Interesting”

  1. randy on May 27th, 2011 5:05 am

    I thought USA uses most solar energy, but it is Germany, great info. Thanks for sharing