The Sun rising over Stonehenge on the morning of the Summer Solstice (21st June 2005). Photo by Andrew Dunn, CC-by-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia (cropped)
Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge, on the rolling hills of the Salisbury Plain, in southern England, was built between 3000 BC to 2000 BC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge
SolarGIS © 2014 GeoModel Solar, CC-by-SA-3.0 http://solargis.info/doc/free-solar-radiation-maps-GHI
https://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pdfs/solar_timeline.pdf (Emphasis added)
“Sun-Boiler’ 1917 patent by Frank Shuman and Charles Vernon Boys – similar to modern parabolic trough solar power plants” http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Patent_1240890.pdf
Over 100 Years Ago:
“In 1897, Frank Shuman, a U.S. inventor, engineer and solar energy pioneer built a small demonstration solar engine that worked by reflecting solar energy onto square boxes filled with ether, which has a lower boiling point than water, and were fitted internally with black pipes which in turn powered a steam engine. In 1908 Shuman formed the Sun Power Company with the intent of building larger solar power plants. He, along with his technical advisor A.S.E. Ackermann and British physicist Sir Charles Vernon Boys, developed an improved system using mirrors to reflect solar energy upon collector boxes, increasing heating capacity to the extent that water could now be used instead of ether. Shuman then constructed a full-scale steam engine powered by low-pressure water, enabling him to patent the entire solar engine system by 1912.
Shuman built the world’s first solar thermal power station in Maadi, Egypt between 1912 and 1913. Shuman’s plant used parabolic troughs to power a 45-52 kilowatt (60-70 H.P.) engine that pumped more than 22,000 litres of water per minute from the Nile River to adjacent cotton fields. Although the outbreak of World War I and the discovery of cheap oil in the 1930s discouraged the advancement of solar energy, Shuman’s vision and basic design were resurrected in the 1970s with a new wave of interest in solar thermal energy. In 1916 Shuman was quoted in the media advocating solar energy’s utilization, saying:
‘We have proved the commercial profit of sun power in the tropics and have more particularly proved that after our stores of oil and coal are exhausted the human race can receive unlimited power from the rays of the sun’ —Frank Shuman, New York Times, July 2, 1916” (Emphasis added; references and more info at link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_energy)
https://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pdfs/solar_timeline.pdf (emphasis added)
While the timeline ends with 2002, innovation has continued in the sector and it must continue. For instance, conductive plastics can increasingly replace rare metals used in solar panels.
The timeline is to give a taste of the fact that the sky is the limit with solar potential. There just needs to be a will, and a refusal of continuing to waste money on technologies of death, such as nuclear fission power plants.
Solar technology, which is the ultimate and the only safe nuclear energy, has been for too long sacrificed on the altar of not only the petroleum industry. But more dangerously, solar technology has been sacrificed on the altar of the nuclear power industry and its nuclear power plants, whose only real purpose are nuclear bomb making – the ultimate “weapons of mass destruction”.
Nuclear power plants cause extreme damage to all life starting with the mining of uranium; continuing with processing to turn uranium into fuel; during its operation where nuclear power plants leak dangerous radiation into the environment, both during routine operations and during inevitable accidents. And, then there is the problem of nuclear waste, which governments refuse to handle properly, but instead dump on other countries (e.g. Germany) or on the poor within their own countries (e.g. USA, UK). Proper handling requires monitoring the waste carefully for millions of years, i.e. for perpetuity. Nuclear power plants require constant new mining, simply to obtain the fuel. The financial cost of mining for uranium increases along with the price of petroleum to run the equipment, and with decline in ore grade (lower ore means more petroleum used to extract it). Then there is the human cost, which is never accounted for. The for-profit nuclear waste operators in the US and UK have even come up with a dump and deceive concept of diluting radioactive waste in with other things to call it low level, hence letting lose dangerous bioaccumulative radionuclides into the public sphere, to ultimately pollute food and water for ever and ever.
Anyone who knows the sun, knows its magnificent power. The old saying is “If there is a will, there is a way”. Even tiny tots of 5 years or younger, once in school in a hot climate without climate control, quickly become innovative and start manufacturing paper fans, for instance.
We saw above the example of Robert Stirling, a Church of Scotland preacher (clergyman), “On September 27, 1816, Robert Stirling applied for a patent for his economiser at the Chancery in Edinburgh, Scotland. By trade, Robert Stirling was actually a minister in the Church of Scotland and he continued to give services until he was eighty-six years old! But, in his spare time, he built heat engines in his home workshop. Lord Kelvin used one of the working models during some of his university classes. This engine was later used in the dish/Stirling system, a solar thermal electric technology that concentrates the sun’s thermal energy in order to produce power.” See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regenerative_heat_exchanger http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applications_of_the_Stirling_engine
Solar Stirling engine — solar power in the Mojave Desert, San Bernardino County, California. Source: http://www.wapa.gov/es/pubs/esb/1998/98Aug/at_solargen.htm via wikimedia
So, you don’t have to be an engineer to create and innovate, but there must be a will to do so.
“Necessity is the mother of invention” and “If there is a will, there is a way“. Trite but true.
Once upon a time, worried parents took their little girl to the doctor because she never learned to talk. Oh, said the doctor, she doesn’t talk, because she does not need to – you give her everything she needs!