Increased preference for clean, renewable energy sources is more than a trend; it is vital for the long-term health and sustainability of the ecosystem. Solar energy is a feasible alternative.
But many people still wonder, “What is solar energy?” Here is a quick tutorial to help you understand.
What Is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is the light and heat emitted by the sun. With the use of technological devices, this energy is converted to electricity and thermal heat for human consumption.
The amount of sunlight that hits the Earth’s surface every 90 minutes is enough to meet the world’s energy requirements for a whole year, making the sun an abundant source of power.
Scientists expect the sun’s power to last billions of years, which makes it a reliable power source. Unlike fossil fuels, it is also renewable.
Moreover, because it does not create hazardous pollutants, solar energy is relatively clean.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Solar energy, by itself, can only produce heat and not electricity. To be used for power, it has to be converted through photovoltaics or concentrating solar power.
Photovoltaics or PV cells mainly comprise a solar panel. Each cell is made of silicon and has positive and negative layers that create an electric field.
Although there are different types of PV cells on the market, their function is the same: to absorb, store, and transform solar energy into electricity. A single cell won’t generate much power, but it will produce enough wattage for your needs when set in an array of hundreds.
On the other hand, concentrating solar power (or CSP) systems harness mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight towards receivers collecting solar energy. The gathered energy is then transformed into heat, either used to generate electricity or stored for future use. CSP systems are common in industrial applications such as power plants.
What Is Solar Energy Used For?
Solar energy is widely used as a clean, renewable source of electricity by many homes and businesses. However, innovations and the increasing affordability of solar technology paved the way for applications other than power generation.
Passive solar design, in which windows, walls, and floors are configured to absorb, store, reflect, and transfer solar energy, aids in heating and cooling interior spaces. However, if you want to heat your home effectively, you should consider solar-powered forced hot air systems or radiant flooring.
Appliances and Machines
Refrigerators, attic fans, washers, and water heaters are some appliances with solar-powered models already available. These are especially beneficial for those living off-grid or who want to reduce energy costs.
A quick internet search for solar lighting returns numerous results, and for good reason. It enables consumers to save money on lighting expenditures, which translates to cheaper electricity bills. In some neighborhoods, most of the street lights run on solar energy.
Solar-powered automobiles are gradually gaining traction. For instance, Sono Motors will introduce Sion, a completely electric vehicle fitted with solar panels to power it and other cars.
What Is Community Solar?
Solar energy has many advantages. However, not everyone can easily have access to it because of limitations or restrictions. Fortunately, there is a way to reap the benefits without the required space or high capital.
Community solar pertains to off-site solar facilities that allow customers to earn credits on their electricity bills based on their share of generated power.
There are two ways to participate in a community solar program: ownership and subscription. Under an ownership-based project, you buy solar panels or own a portion of the facility’s produced power. You’ll receive the equivalent credit in kWh to reduce total costs and consumption.
With subscription-based models, you sign up for a program, pay the membership fee, and get kWh credits according to your share of the solar farm’s generated electricity.
What Is the Future of Solar Energy?
So, what is solar energy? After learning the answer, you may be wondering what the industry’s future holds.
The biggest impact of technological advancements in solar power is the substantial reduction in production costs. Because of increasing affordability, installations tend to cost less and encourage more to shift towards solar energy as an electricity source. Moreover, continuing innovations will result in high-performing but cost-efficient solar cells.
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