Non-conventional energy: How do the solar plants and the windmills function?

Non-conventional energy would be the future answer to the energy requirement all over the world due to almost zero pollution, cost-effectiveness and abundant availability of energy sources. Solar energy, wind energy and tidal energy are three important non-conventional energies. This article discusses how the solar power plant and the wind mill function.

With the progress of civilization, the energy requirement has been increasing by leaps and bounds all over the world. The ever increasing requirement of energy cannot be managed by thermal power plants and hydel power plants. The pollution, area of the power plants and diminishing reserves of coal are other factors which work against the traditional power plants. The nuclear power plant is a viable and cost-effective alternative, but the technology used in nuclear power plants are sometimes not safe, and uranium and thorium (used in nuclear power plants) are not readily available all over the world. Due to these reasons, experts all over the world are stressing the needs of using non-conventional energy sources to meet energy requirement of the world.

Solar power, wind power and tidal waves are three non-conventional sources which can use in power generation with available technology. In this article, we will get preliminary ideas how solar power plants, wind mills and tidal waves produce electricity.

How do solar power plants work?

The name 'solar power plant indicates that these power plants use sunlight for power production. There are two different technologies used for solar power production nowadays. These are: (a) using photo-voltaic plants and (b) using solar thermal systems.

Photovoltaic cells are commonly called PV cells. PV cells produce electric current when exposed to light. These are also called solar cells. These cells contain silicon, a naturally-occurring element found in sand. When sunlight hits silicon, a chemical reaction takes place. As a result of this chemical reaction, electrons move and electric current is produced. A group of PV or solar cells create a solar panel. A number of solar panels form a solar array, and this solar array generates solar energy.

In solar thermal systems, sunlight is collected and concentrated to produce high temperature heat that is needed to generate electricity. All these systems have solar energy collectors with two components, viz., a 'reflector' that captures and focus sunlight on the 'receiver'. In the present system, a heat transfer liquid is heated and circulated in the receiver. It is used to produce steam. The steam is then converted to mechanical energy in a turbine, which powers a generator to produce electricity.

How wind and tides produce electric power?

The wind is a major source of renewable energy which is also useful to generate power. Almost all of us have seen windmills in real life, or on television. These are set up on farms for power generation. Although these windmills look likes fans, these work in just the opposite way. In fans, electricity is used to make wind, but in windmills, wind is used to make electricity.

Let us now discuss how these windmills function. When the wind blows, it turns the blades of the windmill. This, in turn, spins a generator inside, and produces electricity. A single windmill can generate only a small amount of electricity. So, power generation companies build large number of wind turbines. In many countries including Denmark and Portugal, wind power contributes largely to power production.
Another form of energy comes from ocean tides, which again, can be used to produce electricity. Just like wind turbines, there are tidal turbines too. These are turned by ocean currents. The spinning turbines are connected to devices which generate electricity.


Solar energy, wind energy and tidal energy are renewable form of energy. These will not be exhausted. The technology to convert these forms of energy to electrical energy is available. Not only that, the technology is improving rapidly and becoming cost-effective. These renewable energies don't cause pollutions. So, time has come to utilize the solar cells and wind-mills more and more to facilitate the onward march of human civilization.

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