Solar Energy and Solar Wind: what do they have in Common?
You hear virtually nothing about the solar wind but a lot about solar energy or solar power these days. It’s blasted all over the radio and now TV, at least here in Southern California. If you read my two previous posts about solar power you know I wanted to use solar power/solar energy to replace my total dependence on Southern California Edison (SCE), our electric company. In fact the only electric company for millions of Southern Californians.
Solar Power was a Bust
Well as it turned out solar power was a bust and not for me as much as I wanted to do something for keeping the earth green. What about solar wind? You don’t hear much about it unless you are a physicist, maybe a student majoring in physics, or someone like me that thrives on almost anything technical involving physics or astronomy, which involves an awful lot of physics.
The Sun Powers Solar Energy and the Solar Wind
About the only thing in common between solar energy and the solar wind is both are deriving their source from the sun. Actually that’s really a major thing in common, even though we are about 93 million miles away from the sun. If you have read or heard on TV that Voyager I spacecraft is nearing or about at the point where the solar wind diminishes to almost nothing and interstellar space is right next door to the spacecraft. It was 18 billion kilometers (11 billion miles) from the sun last August, in its journey over the past many years since its launch in 1977.
Today I was updating some of the posts on my Stellary website and when I saw this announcement I just had to read all about it. Basically it is about the solar wind and why it gets hotter in space when by all normal thinking it should be getting cooler as it flows in space. In addition to that, it speeds up, when it definitely shouldn’t be doing that either. Apparently the source of the solar wind is causing these unusual phenomena to occur.
The Solar Wind energy source has finally been discovered. I won’t bore you with the details, which you can read, if interested, as they were published in NASA Science| Science News published on March 8, 2013.
Using data from an aging NASA spacecraft, researchers have found signs of an energy source in the solar wind that has caught the attention of fusion researchers. NASA will be able to test the theory later this decade when it sends a new probe into the sun for a closer look.
The discovery was made by a group of astronomers trying to solve a decades-old mystery: What heats and accelerates the solar wind?
The solar wind is a hot and fast flow of magnetized gas that streams away from the sun’s upper atmosphere. It is made of hydrogen and helium ions with a sprinkling of heavier elements. Researchers liken it to the steam from a pot of water boiling on a stove; the sun is literally boiling itself away.
“But,” says Adam Szabo of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “solar wind does something that steam in your kitchen never does. As steam rises from a pot, it slows and cools. As solar wind leaves the sun, it accelerates, tripling in speed as it passes through the corona. Furthermore, something inside the solar wind continues to add heat even as it blows into the cold of space.”
It’s amazing that there is still a spacecraft up there with reels of tape still sending data back that’s not only useful, but is the source of the information unraveling the source of the solar wind. That sounds like when I started programming a few years before Voyager I and Voyager II took off for parts unknown (after their solar system voyage).
Back to solar power – I am hopeful the day will come soon that the cost of solar power will come down enough so it will save me money to convert to it. Right now my electric bill is not high enough to justify it. Does about $52,000 cost over 18 years for solar power sound like a savings to you?
It would also help if SCE would do like some other electric utility companies and pay you for the excess energy (electricity) you feed into their grid. They do have some sort of non-monetary compensation, but according to what I read the person who has solar power and feeds it back to SCE only gets some credit and it expires at the end of the year.
I am not totally sure about this sort of rebate and it may have changed, so if anyone needs to correct me please enter a comment or better yet contact me from the contact form so I know I will see it.