Many people assume that the nation’s first serious breakthrough to develop renewable fuels was sparked while furious Americans waited in gas lines particularly during the energy crisis of the 70s. Held hostage by OPEC oil embargo, the very country apparently seemed somewhat receptive to warnings from environmentalists, scientists, and even several politicians to cease the overreliance on the finite coal and oil supply of face the severe economic hardships and political upheaval occurring.
However, attempts to design and create devices for generating renewable energy actually started one century ago before that very turbulent time-sadly, at the very height of the revolution in industrial aspects, which was to some great extent founded on the premise of inexhaustible supplies of fossil fuels. By contrast with the prevailing opinion of the day, a great number of engineers questioned the practice of industrial economy which was based on non-renewable energy and so much worried about what the world’s nations would probably do after exhausting fossil fuels supply.
More importantly, the majority of these visionaries did not merely provide futuristic rhetoric yet, instead, actively explored almost all of the renewable energy options which are familiar these days. In the end, most opted for focusing on solar power, assuming that the potential rewards outnumbered the technical barriers. In less than fifty years, these visionaries developed impressive types of innovative technologies for collecting solar radiations and then using them to generate steam which powered the machine of the era. In reality just prior to the World War I, they had explicated all of the solar thermal transformation methods which is now being taken into account. Unluckily, in spite of the technical fruition and innovative structures, their work was sadly forgotten for the next fifty years in the rapid development of fossil fuels for world’s energy crisis.
The first solar motor
The earliest known history of direct conversion of solar radiation into mechanical energy was found by AugusteMouchout, who was a mathematics instructor at Lyce de Tours. Mouchout started his solar work in 1860 after he expressed his concerns about his country’s dependence on coal. Coal would without a doubt be used up. Then what will industry use? By the following years, he gained his patent for motor which ran on solar power and went on to improve his invention until the 80s. During this period, he laid the basis for our modern apprehension of converting solar power into mechanical steam power.
His initial experiments included glass-enclosed iron cauldron: the incoming solar radiation passed through the glass, and trapped rays transmitted heat to water kept in the tank. While this simple system boiled the water, it was of little practical value since the quantities and pressures of the steam it generated were small. But, he soon discovered that adding reflector to concentrate additional radiation right onto the cauldron could generate more steam. In the end of 1865, he managed to use his invention to power small, conventional steam engine.
The Tower of Power
During the height of Mouchout’s invention, William Adams, who was the deputy registrar for English Crown in Bombay, wrote award-winning book which was entitled Solar Heat: The Substitute for Fuel in Tropical Countries. He noted that he was so appealed in Mouchout’s solar steam apparatus after perusing an account of regarding Tours demonstration, yet that the invention was considered impractical as it would be impossible to design shaped reflector of greater dimensions to produce more than Mouchout’s one-half HP engine.
Luckily for the infant solar discipline, William did not spend this time finding the faults in Mouchout’s inventor, but offered some solutions. His plan was to create large rack of a number of small mirrors and set each one to reflect sunlight in particular direction. For tracking the sun’s movement, the whole rack could be rolled around semicircular track, which projected the concentrated radiation onto stationary boiler. The rack could then be attended by laborer and would have to be moved just three or four times during the day.
The Collection without Reflection
Even without Mouchout’s abandonment and the apparent disenchantment of England’s participant, Europe went on to breakthrough the practical use of solar heat, just as the torch returned to France and the engineer Charles Tellier. Consider as the father of refrigerating, Tellier actually commenced his work in refrigeration as the outcome of his solar experiment, which resulted in the design of the first non-concentrating, or the non-concentrating, solar engine. In the middle of 80s, Tellier installed solar collector on his roof which was similar to the flat-plate collectors that were placed at the top of homes today for water heating. The collector consisted of ten place, each of which consisting of two iron plates which were riveted together to shape a watertight seal, and connected through tubes to form single unit. Rather than filling the plates with water to generate steam, Tellier opted for ammonia as the working fluid due to its lower boiling point. After the solar exposure, the containers yielded enough pressurized ammonia gas to provide power for water pump he had set in his well. Tellier considered his water pump practical for everyone with south-facing roofing.
The Parabolic Trough
Even though Swedish by birth, John Ericsson was one of the most inspiring and controversial United States engineers of the 19th century. While he spent most of his productive time working on machines of war-his most recognized invention was the Civil War battleship. This work was initially inspired by the fear shared by all of his fellow solar inventors that the supplies of coal would end someday. By 1870, He had developed what he claimed to be the first solar-powered steam engine.
Ericsson designed a device resembling Mouchout’s devices, operating conical, dis-shaped reflector concentrating solar radiation onto boiler and tracking system which kept it directed toward the sun. This type of reflector offered various benefits over the circular counterparts as it was much simpler, less costly to design, and had only to track the sun in a direction, which eliminated the need for complex tracking system.