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The Future of Solar Energy – 13-Year-Old Wins 25,000 With Solar Energy Project

The story of humanity is the story of constant searching for better, more efficient ways to do things. From the invention of the wheel to the creation of smartwatches and everything in between, mankind has been finding ways to make life safer, easier, and more efficient.

A major step forward in man’s history was the discovery of how to harness and utilize energy. The discovery of electricity led to tangibly better lives almost overnight. Food could be refrigerated in any climate, homes could be illuminated without fireplaces or candles, and motors of all shapes and sizes could be made to power machines.

The downside? Generating electricity often meant burning fossil fuels. Though seemingly endless when first discovered, these fuels are finite. They are also a leading cause of pollution worldwide. Thus, the search began for renewable sources of electricity.

Wind and water power are two viable options. After all, there is an abundant supply of both. But there is another source of energy that makes these two seem like a drop in the bucket. If you guessed solar energy, you are correct. In fact, in just 12 hours, enough solar energy hits the earth to fulfill the world’s energy needs for 18 years! If this is the case, then why doesn’t everyone use it?

In a word: cost. Solar energy collection equipment can be costly. And because the sun is not stationary (at least from our viewpoint!) the collection point has to move with the sun. To accomplish this, expensive sensors have to be installed to turn the collection dishes. However, a new invention was just introduced that could change this. Who invented this brilliant new device, you ask? A team from MIT? A student from Harvard? A NASA scientist?

No. It was a 13-year-old girl from California working on a science fair project.

Let that sink in for a moment.

“Georgia Hutchinson, from Woodside, California, took the top prize at the Broadcom Masters nationwide STEM competition for middle-school students.” Not only that, but she did so from a field of 2,500 other students who applied for a place in the competition.

What is so great about her invention? After all, we’ve harnessed solar energy for years. Remember those expensive sensors that move solar dishes with the sun? “Hutchinson’s invention, which she calls a data-driven dual-axis solar tracker, relies on publicly available data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to track the sun and make solar panels more efficient.” In other words, she created a computer program that will perform the same job as the expensive sensors for a fraction of the cost. Pretty impressive, right?

So what does this mean for the consumer? Hutchinson’s invention debuted in December 2018, so it will be some time before it makes its way into the world of energy production. But make its way it undoubtedly will. By eliminating the need for costly sensors and replacing them with coding and publicly available information, Hutchinson has created a device that will cut costs and allow savings to be passed along to consumers. Not bad for a 13-year-old middle schooler!

Hutchinson says the motivation behind her science fair project was a desire to reduce the need for fossil fuels, thereby reducing their impact on the environment. In today’s age of heightened global and environmental awareness, consumers are often looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint while still meeting their energy needs. Hutchinson’s invention will go a long way toward accomplishing this.

Hutchinson’s invention is exciting both because of its implications for cheaper solar energy and because of its potential for decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. For more ways you can save on your energy bill, contact Energy Professionals for an energy audit. Your energy bill and the environment will thank you!

Matt Helland's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 15, 2019 2:32 pm GMT

Fascinating-- so if I'm understanding correctly, typical 'track the sun' solar installations do so with built in sensors that tell the system where the sun is and literally track it, but what Georgia did was offset the needs for an expensive system like that by simply pre-programming the panels where they should move given the predictable motion of the sun in the sky? Wow-- that's one of those classic 'well, why didn't we think of that before?' ideas. Perhaps the mind of a young person is the best place to grab such innovations :)

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