Sunday, September 21, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday September 21st, 2008. Today we will be talking about ecologically minded power companies.

Well, first thing is first I guess. The one or two people that actually read my blog probably noticed that I didn't post anything yesterday. I was a little busy and I decided to take a break from pseudoscience for this week. Worry not, though, because it will be back next week in full force.

Today I found a nice technological article about solar power being used by big Japanese electric companies. You can see the original article here. I am so happy that these electric companies have finally gotten onto the ball about this.

I did a little post about solar power back in the beginning of July, but I never did say anything about how solar power works. So, before I actually get into the new story, I want to talk about what makes solar power work. There are actually a couple of different types of solar power. One form uses the a lot of curved mirrors to focus the light from the sun onto a tower. The water in that tower is made to boil because of the concentrated heat from the sun and that steam moves a turbine which makes electricity. That type of solar power is not what I am referring to though. I am talking about the solar power obtained by solar panels (also called photovoltaic cells).

Solar panels work though what is called the photoelectric effect. Basically what happens is some lights hits the surface of a material (it does not have to be a metal or a semi-conductor) and an electron is released from that material. Why are the electrons released? Well think of it this way; electrons are held in place in the material by an attraction to its positively charged nuclear core. If something comes in that is stronger than its attraction to it's core, it will be knocked away and be free to leave the material. The attraction between the electron and the core can be expressed in the form of an energy, but so can light (some types of light are more energetic than others). So this means if the light has more energy than the electron's connection to its core the light will knock the electron free.

That all happens for only one atom, but solar cells are made up of billions of atoms. This means that if light with enough energy is coming in a lot of electrons are leaving their atoms. These electrons are made to flow and like magic we have energy from a solar cell. Scientists are working hard to find new materials in which the electron is not bound strongly to its nuclear core. When these materials are found the effectiveness of solar panels will go up and they will produce more electricity.

Now, with that out of the way, I can talk about the news story. Two of the biggest energy providers in Japan, Tokyo Denryoku and Kansai Denryoku, made a promise that they will be using solar power to power about 40000 homes a year by 2020. This is a huge change in their normal practices of using fossil fuels to create electricity. They say they are converting 30 places into solar power factories and plan on producing about 40000 kilowatt hours a year. According to their sources this will keep about 70000 tons of CO2 out of the air.

But, wait, there's more. Not only are they making the solar power plants, but they decided that they should be riding around in electric cars. They are going to buy 10000 new solar powered cars along with other types of electric cars. This will make up just about a third of their fleet when they do get the cars. Every little bit helps. You can see one of these electric cars below.

Ugly is not the word I am looking for, but it's close.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 電気(でんき). It is pronounced denki and means electricity. I wonder why a lot of people never think to put solar panels on their roofs? Sure they cost some money to install, but they pay back a lot in the long run.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.


  1. mmmmm - leftovers - drool....

    In the US insurance companies will not allow the installation of solar panels on the roofs of houses. It will cause damage, so they say. Many areas have fought against it for years. So it comes down to the cost of initial install and really high insurance rates for the rest of time for your home...

    I do know that we (meaning my new employer - US Army Reserve) were using solar water heaters and some solar power during the Clinton days; however, Bushie the 2nd did away with any requirement by federal agencies to use alternative energy. Please not the solar farm was removed from the pentagon parking lot - it used to provide 38% of the power for the "known" building areas.

  2. It's too bad that insurance companies are being dicks towards those that want to help the environment (and save/make a little money at the same time). I can see this attitude changing in a couple of years when the oil prices really start souring.