Categorized | About Solar Energy

What is solar energy?

Solar energy – Solar energy is collecting and then using the energy generated by the sun for things like electricity and heating. Solar energy is being used more and more by businesses and homeowners as a way to fight rising electricity bills and also to live in a more environmentally friendly way.

One of the first recorded uses of solar energy was in the 1830’s when a British explorer in Africa built a box to collect the energy from the sun’s rays and used it to cook his food. Today solar energy is used mainly to create heat and to create electricity.

There are two ways to generate electricity from solar energy. The first is using the Photovoltaic method. This method uses a collection of cells made of certain materials to grab the sun’s energy and directly convert it to electricity. Since the sun’s rays are diffuse it takes a large number of these photovoltaic cells working together to provide any real power.

The second way is using solar power plants. These huge plants use sunlight indirectly to create electricity. In simple terms the sunlight heats water which produces steam and the steam powers a generator that creates electricity. There are 15 large solar power plants in the United States. 10 are in California, and 5 are in Arizona.

Solar energy is totally renewable and has no measurable impact on the environment which is why it’s the renewable energy system of choice for many environmentally conscious people. However there are a few drawbacks to using solar energy. One disadvantage of using solar energy is that because the energy created by the sun is so diffuse it takes a lot of sunlight to generate power. This means that solar plants have to have a large surface area.

Another disadvantage of solar energy is that the amount of the sun’s energy that reaches the solar cells depends on things like the amount of cloud cover, the temperature, the time of day and other factors that can’t be controlled. Scientists are trying to develop ways of using solar energy to generate large amounts of power, similar to central power plants burning fossil fuels today. Page 8

Most experts agree that the best way to use solar energy for electricity and heating is for individual homeowners and building owners to use solar panels to generate heat and electricity for their own buildings.

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