Introduction

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The decline of the world's fossil energy supply, the increase in energy consumption, and the continuous trend of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions enforce innovation and research efforts toward the implementation of a global economy based on renewable energy. As mentioned in many sources (e.g., Baneman, 2008), with the increasing price of fossil fuels and augmenting taxes placed by governments on emissions, renewable energies will become progressively competitive.

This kind of energy comes from three "fundamental" sources, namely solar, gravitation combined with the movement of the planet, and geothermal heat stored or produced in the earth's crust (see Scheffler, 2001).

Produced by solar irradiation that hits the terrestrial atmospheric shell with an insolation (INcident SOLar radiATION energy flux) /sc=1367 W/m2, solar energy is the most important of all renewable sources (see Duffie and Beckman, 2006). Kalogirou (2004) noted that 30 minutes of solar radiation falling on earth is equal to the world energy demand for 1 year. An overwhelming majority of the physical and chemical reactions encountered by air-breathing organisms on the earth's surface, including photosynthesis and water and air circulation in the atmosphere, are a direct or indirect result of solar radiation. Fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas, etc.) were originally produced by photosynthesis and solar heating (see also Kreith and Kreider, 1978).

Solar energy can be used for various purposes among which power generation looks the most attractive because it provides the ability to supply an increasingly important part of the world energy demand. Solar energy can be converted to electricity in two ways: either by using photovoltaics or by solar-driven heat engines coupled to electric generators. According to Baneman (2008) more than 70% of the world's solar energy is generated through Rankine cycle systems in California's Mojave desert.

I. Dincer et al. (eds.), Global Warming, Green Energy and Technology,

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-1017-2_4, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Solar-driven heat engine systems represent a technology in continuous development, especially since the 1970s world energy crisis. Among various implementations of these systems, the one based on parabolic trough solar collectors has already become a mature technology, commercialized since the mid-1980s throughout the world. Among companies that commercialize solar trough technology, we note here Luz International Ltd, California (Baneman, 2008) and Tur-boden Ltd, Italy (Turboden, 2008).

The aim of this chapter is to document the development status of solar power (and heat) systems that can be used for residential applications and to show that these systems represent a promising option toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. In the first part of the chapter, the impact of solar energy on the environment and sustainable development is analyzed based on a formerly proposed fossil fuel and solar energy utilization indicator and the assumed amount of investments in three scenarios. Subsequently, various small-(individual) to large-scale solar systems with relevance to residential power (and heat) generation are presented together with their specific components. A case study showing a preliminary design of a low-power solar- driven ammonia-water Rankine generator for power and heat is exemplified together with its analysis, modeling, and results. The chapter ends with concluding remarks and perspectives.

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