The Power of the Sun






July 27, 2020                                                                                                                                                       Home

The past few weeks have seen a lot of hot sunny days.  The sun, which is 93,000,000 miles away from the earth, blasts vast amounts of energy to our solar system. How much?  4 million tons of matter are transformed into energy every second, according to Wikipedia.  I can’t grasp what this means, but it is a lot of energy.

Solar panel installation

Over the past decade, many nations – and many states in the USA – have invested in taking this energy and changing it into power to provide electricity to the grid.  Our neighbor state of North Carolina has the second highest growth rate of solar power in the US.  Think of it as harvesting a crop.  As with any power source (fossil fuel, wind, nuclear), solar needs to be converted and stored. Solar (and wind) are becoming more cost effective each year, and storage technology for solar power is also advancing.  

Most people are familiar with the solar grid outside Hancock Elementary School.  This group of panels feeds electricity into the Powell Valley Electric Cooperative system.  There is also a similar array outside the Clinch School in Hawkins County.

There are a few homes in the county with solar power.  A few people (like me) have installed a simple homemade unit that generates enough power for lights and a small fan in a shed.  The components for this unit can be bought at places like Harbor Freight.  Farmers use solar-powered fence chargers and other equipment to contain livestock.  Solar powered security lights, bird bath fountains, highway signs, and phone chargers are among the many items in use today.

Solar cooker

Across the globe, especially in rural areas and underdeveloped nations, there has been a rapid increase in solar-powered technology to improve peoples’ lives, including low cost solar cookers. Previously people would use wood for cooking, but wood has become less available and is usually used inside the home (adding to overall heat in the summer).  Some people may remember the old wooden cookstove – good in the winter, but generating lots of heat in the summer. Solar cookers are also commercially available here – on Amazon and other sites. 

Want to try an experiment with your kids or grandkids?  There are numbers of simple projects available on line.  Here’s one: go to and search for “How to Make a Solar Powered Oven for Kids”.  This is an easy and fun way to cook a hot dog on a sunny day.  You will build a simple oven with a pizza box, some aluminum foil, a piece of plastic wrap, and a hot dog.  A similar method works for s’mores.  

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