Taken together, the generation and distribution of electric power in the United States is an astonishingly complex undertaking. Utilities may generate their own power or buy it from other utilities; that power travels over a grid of transformers and high- and low-voltage lines to your house. Ownership of utilities varies from nonprofits to cooperatives to for-profits. Federal regulators ultimately oversee the grid. Amazingly, when you flip a switch, electricity is there.
As the cost of solar electricity has fallen, the number of grid-connected solar PV systems has grown into the millions and utility-scale solar power stations with hundreds of megawatts are being built. Solar PV is rapidly becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology to harness renewable energy from the Sun. The current largest photovoltaic power station in the world is the 850 MW Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, in Qinghai, China.
The locations with highest annual solar irradiance lie in the arid tropics and subtropics. Deserts lying in low latitudes usually have few clouds, and can receive sunshine for more than ten hours a day.[86][87] These hot deserts form the Global Sun Belt circling the world. This belt consists of extensive swathes of land in Northern Africa, Southern Africa, Southwest Asia, Middle East, and Australia, as well as the much smaller deserts of North and South America.[88] Africa's eastern Sahara Desert, also known as the Libyan Desert, has been observed to be the sunniest place on Earth according to NASA.[89][90]
Maybe you reside on a boat, vacation in a remote cabin, or live off-grid like me. Or perhaps you’re just interested in lowering your energy bill. Either way, with a handful of inexpensive and easy-to-source materials, you can build a homemade wind generator, making electricity yours for the taking for as long as the wind is blowing. You’ll be able to light up that storeroom, power your barn, or use a generator to keep all your vehicle batteries charged.
Reliance on rare earth minerals for components has risked expense and price volatility as China has been main producer of rare earth minerals (96% in 2009) and had been reducing its export quotas of these materials.[56] In recent years, however, other producers have increased production of rare earth minerals and China has removed its reduced export quota on rare earths leading to an increased supply and decreased cost of rare earth minerals, increasing the viability of the implementation of variable speed generators in wind turbines on a large scale.[57]
Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s. The 392 MW Ivanpah installation is the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, located in the Mojave Desert of California.