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Making Active Solar Energy to Work in Buildings

Active solar could supply 10% of the world’s electricity by 2050 as technological solutions are developed

Architectural solutions that explore sunlight, sun heating, promote more social, cultural and aesthetic values in straight relation with the surrounding environment. The passive solar gain for space heating and day light has always been the part of architecture since ages. Active Solar technologies are also not new but have been around for several centuries. The first recorded use of solar energy was by 16th century’s Arab Alchemists for the production of portable water from saline or brackish water called distillation. In 18th century Horace de Saussure constructed successfully a rectangular hot box out of half –inch pine lined with black cork and three panes of glass. Sir John Herschel and Samuel Langley carried out the similar experiments in 19th century, focused on solar hot water and developed the black water tanks that were directly heated by the sun. The early solar technologies were solar thermal systems, it was purposed to capture solar radiation as heat and transfer it to a working fluid (water or water mixed with propylene) and distributed to the storage tank for service hot water. The primary components of an active solar system were the solar collector, storage and a distribution system. The technology of photosynthesis had evolved in 19th century with the photovoltaic effect in solid selenium by W.G. Adams and R.E Ray (1877).Light from the diffused, direct and reflected solar radiation generally freed electrons in photovoltaic cells that in turn initiated an electric voltage. Modern day active solar technologies were developed with a number of related components including both the mechanical means and electrical energy for their operation
Now a days many universities and institutes are active in aspect oriented development of active solar energy. The main areas are:  reducing the cost and make solar cells more energy efficient to compete with the other energy sources, effectively –developing new materials to absorb more light and generate more electric current- developing the integration qualities of solar cells for architectural design.
Many years of development in PV technologies have modified the original design of solar panels and diversified the solar cells for seamless integration into the building envelope.Multifunction use of solar cells in the buildings can enhance overall energy performance by reducing conventional components and material redundancy.
At the present time, as a sustainable design concern, it is time to revive the ancient idea that sunlight and architecture can be combined to provide human comfort as well as protection from an increasing hostile ambient environment.

Sources: Solar Energy and Its Uses, Pinnacle Technology. The Greening of Architecture: A Critical History and Survey of Contemporary Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design


Cross section of langley’s hot bo, which was similar to Saussure’s later models

PVs Panel 1830


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