It has been suggested that the solar and wind technologies we have currently are not yet able to cope with the increased energy demand that will arise from humanity’s increasing population. This argument is based on the fact that solar panels only produce electricity when there is sunlight, while wind turbines can only produce electricity when there is wind.
However, researchers at the University of California and the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered a way to reduce the electrical power required to produce electricity from solar and wind power – by running turbines on sea salt water.
The researchers say that when saltwater is used, it reduces the amount of electrical energy a solar panel needs to generate when there is no wind.
How does sea water work?
Unlike solar panels, which only produce electricity when there is sunlight, wind turbines produce electricity to power a turbine, which means they have to be built with high efficiency.
But the researchers found that this can still be achieved by running turbines on salt water. In fact, it only needs to be able to produce about as much energy as a light bulb when there is no wind.
This might be possible if salt water can be pumped to a location where there is no wind. And this could solve the issue of solar production going offline.
The researchers also claim that sea salt can be placed on an area where there are wind turbines without damaging them.
What is next?
The scientists have discovered that the electrical energy from a solar panel can be generated when there is no air currents around turbines – meaning the amount of electricity produced is reduced by 20%. If the panels still fail on that level, the researchers estimate that the energy output could be reduced by up to 100%.
Now that the research has been published, the team is planning to start a company called Sola-Wind, which will develop and buy the technology from them to make it available and affordable.
They have already developed turbines that could produce about 0.5MW of power when there is no wind, but have not produced any significant amount at that stage.
The team said their next step in the area of solar power from renewable sources is to test the power output of solar panels, as well as wind turbines, to see how they actually perform.
To do this, the team will need a much greater amount of information to be able to predict the overall efficiency of the turbines – as the actual power production is dependent on the wind conditions, according to the team.
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