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The history of solar power is of interest to me, because again for some reason I have an innate interest in all things solar. In this entry I wrote about some of the forefathers of the solar power movement and in future entries I will bring us up to the present time.

Humans and the earth have used the sun as some sort of energy source since the beginning of time, but it was not until 1838 that Edmund Becquerel observed and published findings about the nature of certain materials to turn light into energy. This in itself did not really create much commotion, but it did bring the thought of harnessing the sun’s energy source to people’s mind.

Thirty years later between 1860 and 1881, Auguste Mouchout, a mathematics instructor at the Lyce de Tours, became the first man to patent a design for a motor running on solar energy. This invention was born out of his his concerns over his country’s dependence on coal. “It would be prudent and wise not to fall asleep regarding this quasi-security,” he wrote. “Eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion. Coal will undoubtedly be used up. What will industry do then?” Well we know what they do, they discover other nonrenewable sources of energy like oil and natural gas to use up, and once that is gone then will we turn to sun and wind for our main source of energy? The issue “they” see with that is they have not figured out a way to turn an obscenely grandiose profit off the sun and air, but I would not worry too much as I am sure General Electric is working on buying the sun as we speak.

Anyway, Mouchout received funds from the French Emperor Napoleon III and with those funds he designed a device that turned solar energy into mechanical steam power and soon operated the first steam engine. He later connected the steam engine to a refrigeration device, illustrating that the sun’s rays can be utilized to make ice, for which he was awarded an awesome French Medal of Super Freshness [I tried to discover, briefly, what medal it was he won, but to no avail, so yes I did invent the French medal of Super Freshness incase you weren’t sure.]!

Unfortunately, his groundbreaking research was cut short. The French renegotiated a cheaper deal with England for the supply of coal and improved their transportation system for the delivery thereof. Mouchout’s work towards finding an alternative source of energy was not considered a priority anymore and he no longer received any funding from the Napoleon V3 [ah, isn’t that the way things go?].

I will end our solar history lesson there for today and hope you have enjoyed it so far, more to follow!

Let the sun shine in.

-Cara


Reason 80 from, 101 Reasons Why I Am Vegetarian:
In the early twentieth century man learned how to extract nitrogen (fertilizer) from the air, cheaply and in large quantities. The discovery ultimately allowed 2 billion more people to inhabit the Earth and has given humans the luxury of feeding crops to livestock. Yet what gives the world abundance has, by way of nutrient runoff and acid rain, poisoned waterways from the Chinese countryside to the Ohio Valley. (Excess nitrogen promotes algae growth, robbing the water of oxygen.) In North America and Europe, lakes and rivers contain 20 times the nitrogen they did before the Industrial Revolution.

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I’m really into solar right now, so I decided today will be the day to gather and share ten cool solar facts from around the World Wide Web.

What? You’re welcome! :P

  1. As for solar energy history as we know it, it wasn’t until 1839 when French physicist Edmond Becquerel first discovered photovoltaic activity.
  2. This discovery was followed by another Frenchman, Auguste Mouchout, in the 1860’s who invented the first motor to be powered by solar energy.
  3. In 1883, Charles Fritz turned the sun’s rays into electricity!
  4. In 1990, a aircraft powered solely by the sun crossed the United States.
  5. It takes only about 8 minutes for solar energy to travel from the sun to the earth.
  6. Solar energy is measured in kilowatt-hours. One kilowatt hour (kWh) is the amount of energy needed to burn a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours.
  7. If we covered a small fraction of the Sahara desert with photovoltaic cells, we could generate all the world’s electricity requirements.
  8. Enough sunlight falls on the earth every minute to meet the world’s energy demands for an entire year.
  9. Two billion people in the world have no access to electricity. For most of them, solar photovoltaics would be their cheapest electricity source, but they cannot afford it.
  10. Solar energy will not pollute our air with carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases and bad emissions which is one of the main causes of global warming.

In 5 billion years the sun will run out of fuel, so let’s use this baby while we still can.

-Cara

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Arsenic has been a common additive in factory chicken feed for nearly 50 years. It is used to kill parasites, reduce stress, and promote growth in the birds. The practice has long been deemed safe. Recently, however, scientists have found that the substance turns carcinogenic rather quickly after application. Arsenic-imbued manure becomes toxic to the environment when spread as fertilizer. The risk for those who ingest the meat of treated birds is, in fact, worse than once thought, particularly since exposure to arsenic is cumulative and people are eating three times the chicken they once did in the 1960s.

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