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Solar Power
Solar power comes from the Sun.

Solar Power

This GCSE Geography quiz will test you on solar power. The increase in world population, increased wealth and technological advances have created an ever increasing demand for energy. In emerging economies, the cheapest and most effective way to obtain this energy is from the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels. In MEDCs, since the end of the twentieth century, there has been a drive towards increasing the amount of energy generated from cleaner and sustainable sources. One of these is to use the energy arriving at the surface of the Earth from the Sun. This form of renewable energy is not available to all countries, either because of their economic status or they don't have high enough levels of sunlight.

Solar power is also known as solar energy and uses the heat and the light from the Sun. As with most forms of renewable energy, the energy is spread out and so it takes large areas of solar collectors to obtain significant amounts.

This can have social and economic effects on local populations as farmland is taken over for energy production. On a smaller scale, it is possible to fit solar panels and solar cells to individual dwellings in order to reduce their dependence on energy from other sources.

The simplest way to use solar power is to heat water using solar panels. A domestic solar hot water system comprises a sealed box with a glass front to allow the heat from the Sun to enter. The box contains tubes that are painted black (black absorbs heat the best) through which water is circulated by a pump. The water is warmed by the Sun's heat and can be stored, ready for use, in an insulated tank. It is expensive to install but costs very little to run. It has disadvantages like it doesn't work at night and it is less effective in the winter.

The Sun's heat can also be used to generate electricity, there are several solar power stations around the world. These have different designs but all work by focussing the heat from the Sun using mirrors in order to turn water into steam. The steam can then be used to turn a turbine which turns a generator. These power stations produce less electricity than conventional methods and have similar advantages and disadvantages to using the Sun's heat for heating domestic hot water.

Light from the Sun can be used to generate electricity directly using panels of photovoltaic cells. These can be fitted to individual houses or fixed together in huge arrays. Photovoltaic cells are not very efficient at converting light to electricity, most commercial cells convert only about a quarter of the incoming energy to electricity. They also become covered with dust which means they must be regularly cleaned if they are to work at their maximum efficiency.

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1.
Which of the following is a long term economic benefit of electricity generated from photovoltaic cells?
Government grants are available to cover some of the cost of installation
If the system generates more electricity than you can use, it can be easily stored to use when you want
If the system generates more electricity than you use, the rest goes into the National Grid and you get paid for it
It is the most effective method of insulating your roof
A grant is a short term economic benefit although you could possibly argue that it is a long term benefit too as it means you pay less to start with and so it has a shorter payback time
2.
About 20% of the total energy produced from renewable resources in Spain and Greece is from solar power. In the UK, the equivalent figure is less than 5%. Which of the following is the most likely explanation?
The Spanish and Greek governments like technology more than the British government
Britain has fewer sunshine hours
It is difficult to get the other forms of renewable energy in those two countries
All of the above
Solar power is best in countries that have a lot of sunshine. Hot deserts would be the best place for solar power stations but there are political and technical issues that would need solving first
3.
Why might people in a rural community object to the installation of a photovoltaic solar power station?
They are worried about radioactive leaks
They don't want to have to pay extra for the electricity it generates
It will take the sunlight away from their gardens
It will reduce the amount of farmland and cause the loss of agricultural jobs
If the area is particularly attractive, locals may also think that such an installation would be an eyesore
4.
What is a sustainable resource?
A resource that can be renewed by careful management
A resource that can be transported from one place to another
A resource based on oil
It is the same as a renewable resource
Although solar energy is a renewable resource, the materials from which solar panels, tubing, photovoltaic cells and other components are not. Careful management, including recycling is necessary to ensure that solar energy is sustainable for as long as possible
5.
Which of the following is not part of a solar powered system for producing hot water?
Sealed box with a glass or transparent plastic cover
White tubes
A pump
Insulated storage tank
The tubes that absorb the Sun's heat are painted black to make them more efficient
6.
Which of the following is NOT a disadvantage of solar power
Does not work all of the time
It is an infinite resource
Supply does not always equal demand
When using solar cells, it is hard to store the surplus electricity
Solar power will be available for as long as the Sun is there. The Sun will use up its fuel in about 5,000 billion years but the Earth will be destroyed long before that happens
7.
Why are governments around the world investing money in renewable energy sources?
To reduce their country's carbon footprint
To impress their population
They do it because it is the law
Because it is cheaper than non-renewable resources
Over the last fifty years, globalisation and industrialisation has led to a large increase in the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and many governments believe that reducing their country's carbon footprint will be better for the planet
8.
Which is NOT an advantage of generating electricity from the Sun's energy?
Renewable
Non-polluting
Cheap to set up
Can be placed on single dwellings
It is not cheap to set up at all, in fact it is expensive to install photovoltaic systems
9.
Which of the following does not contribute to the increasing global energy demands?
Advances in technology
An increase in population
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Greater wealth
Reducing energy demands would reduce greenhouse gas emissions
10.
Which of the following statements best describes a renewable energy resource?
An energy resource that is radioactive
An energy resource that is provided by the local community
An energy resource that does not need to be imported
A source of energy that renews itself without any human intervention
You could regard oil, coal and gas as renewable on that basis but it is a matter of the timescale - they take tens of millions of years to form and we are using up current stocks a lot faster than they will be formed, so, at some point in the future, there will be no more oil and coal for millions of years
Author:  Kev Woodward

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