Preface

Energy is all around us. It heats our homes, powers our light bulbs and appliances, fuels our cars and provides for a variety of professional careers that deal with its many elements. It also comes in many forms such as heat, light, chemical, mechanical and electrical energy. And, according to physicists, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another. So why learn about energy? The answer is because energy, and the conversion of energy from one form to another, is fundamental to our modern living environment. By knowing the principles behind energy generation and conversion, you will come away with a knowledge base that can be applied to nearly every modern electrical, mechanical and chemical device that uses or produces power.

This Experiments with Renewable Energy course deals with one particular form of energy, electricity. In this course you will learn about the fundamentals of direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) and how they both apply to our everyday use of electricity. By studying electrical energy as the primary theme, you will also learn simple, but elegant, programming techniques using PBASIC, the higher-level computer language of the BASIC Stamp microcontrollers. And to add a dramatic visual dimension to your learning activities, we have also integrated StampPlot software. StampPlot software provides you with the ability to graph the real-time voltage measurements that make up the basis for each of the five experiments that comprise this course.

This series of five experiments will introduce you to DC and AC electrical concepts using the Board of Education and the BS2 series of microcontrollers. To produce DC and AC power, these experiments use rechargeable batteries, miniature solar cells, and a three-phase wind-driven AC alternator that, taken together, will help you learn about two forms of renewable energy as well. The DC experiments start with a programmable battery charger and move into experiments with solar cells, including a servo-driven sun tracker. The AC experiments involve the use of a miniature wind-driven AC alternator to demonstrate two basic forms of rectification, half wave and full wave, and conclude with comparing single-phase and three-phase power generation and their applications to real-world devices.

The underlying goal of this course is to whet your intellectual appetite to learn more about the various forms of electrical energy and how best to apply them in a technical sense. To that end you will find detailed information about the theory and practice behind each experiment, including links to appropriate web sites. One particularly noteworthy web site, LearnOnLine.com, hosts the REEL Power project. REEL Power, which stands for Renewable Energy Education Lab, is the first national renewable energy project where students can participate in experiments with miniature solar panels, wind turbines and fuel cells in the classroom and then seamlessly share their results with other participating REEL Power users on the World Wide Web. To learn more about REEL Power, point your web browser to www.learnonline.com. Also, check out the REEL Power section in the Appendix for an overview of this award-winning renewable energy project.

Another important goal of this course is to introduce students to careers in the energy and power electronics fields. Our country's dependence on electrical power and the electronic components that control and process this power still remains a sleeping giant. While computers and telecommunications were the technology bellwethers of the 1980s and 1990s, power technologies will dominate at least the first part of the 21st century electronics industry, largely due to our reliance on these computer-based technologies. This is why students should seriously consider careers in the energy and power electronics fields, because they will shortly represent the new-growth industries that will cry out for technical talent. Hopefully, this Experiments with Renewable Energy course will help to inspire you to participate in this new technology revolution.

This Experiments with Renewable Energy Student Guide will be periodically revised, expanded and updated based on feedback from students, educators and experimenters. We encourage all of you to submit any suggestions for additional experiments as well as author additions to this text. Please send them to [email protected]. We will do our best to integrate your ideas and assist you with whatever technical support or sales support you need.

Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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