Search "Sun songs" on the Internet and you'll see numerous listings. From the Beatle's "Here Comes the Sun" to the Fifth Dimension's "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In," sunlight and warmth make for catchy lyrics. As the closest star to our planet and something critical for all life, the Sun resonates deeply with human emotions.
It's also a great source for long-term, renewable energy.
All of the world's fussing about oil and coal seems misplaced when an obvious energy machine passes over our heads every day. The situation is like a subsistence farmer starving from failed crops while plentiful game animals stroll through the fields.
The Sun is essentially a big generator — a beautiful example of Einstein's E=MC2 in which matter is converted into massive amounts of energy. And it’s there for the taking — once our ingenuity finds a way to make more efficient use of it.
There are numerous ways in which the Sun can be an energy source. Heat and visible light are obvious, but infrared and ultraviolet radiation, the solar wind of charged particles passing through space, magnetic fields and gravity are other potential ways. Undoubtedly, additional solar resources exist that we haven't discovered yet. And, with all the debate about global warming, why not capture and use the extra solar heat trapped in the atmosphere?
A primary challenge with tapping the sun as a resource is for society as a whole to develop a mindset that focuses on solar power. Similar to America's audacious goal in the 1960s to reach the moon in less than 10 years, we need a national challenge to become energy independent by a fixed time, in large part relying on the Sun.
European countries have been quicker to implement solar power than has the U.S. While we've been installing photovoltaics in limited ways, the Germans, for example, have been a leader in using the panels to generate electricity. They put them on rooftops, as well as farmland, the sides of highways and other open spaces. We can do the same, and more importantly, develop the next generation of solar technologies. American companies are creating some imaginative new systems, but continued investment in primary scientific research and practical business R&D are critical.
As our country and world think through our energy woes, it will be important to keep the Beatle’s words in mind: "here comes the sun, and I say it's all right" (well, maybe everywhere except Seattle, where we've had an especially gray summer).
(Note: If you are interested, check out our past "Brandner Takes")