Solar energy has been used for heating, cooking, and other vital tasks that improve the quality of our lives. It is clear why the sun has been such a valuable resource for civilization; after all, if its rays can warm our bodies when we are simply going outside, there must be additional uses for them.
However, Bell Laboratories’ development of the first commercially practical solar cell in 1954 was actually when solar energy technology really came into its own. Since then, the energy economy’s fastest-growing sector has been solar power, which has grown at a rate six times faster than the overall labour market. Utilizing solar energy whenever and whenever feasible has a tonne of benefits.
What is solar energy?
Solar energy is the term for solar radiation that may create heat, trigger chemical processes, or create electricity. The total solar energy incidence on Earth is far greater than the global energy needs at the now and in the future. This highly distributed source has the ability to meet all future energy demands if properly exploited. Due to its limitless supply and lack of pollution, solar energy is predicted to become a more appealing renewable energy source in the twenty-first century than the limited fossil fuels coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
Solar technology may utilise the energy from the sun to produce electricity, heat water for personal, commercial, and industrial use, and provide light. Solar energy is the cleanest and most plentiful renewable energy source currently accessible.
Given that Earth receives daily sun energy equivalent to nearly 200,000 times the global capacity for generating electricity, solar energy has a tremendous amount of potential. Unfortunately, despite the fact that solar energy is free, its use is still restricted in many regions due to the high cost of its collection, conversion, and storage.
The most plentiful source of energy is solar energy, which may even be used under overcast conditions. The pace at which the Earth absorbs solar energy is around 10,000 times higher than the rate at which people use energy.
For a wide range of uses, solar systems can provide heat, cooling, natural lighting, power, and fuels. Solar technologies can use photovoltaic panels or solar radiation-concentrating mirrors to turn sunlight into electrical energy.
The biggest advantage of solar energy is that it is one of the cleanest sources of energy and produces no pollution. It is a clean, low-maintenance energy source that is simple to install and renewable. Solar energy’s sole drawback is that it cannot be utilised at night, and the quantity of sunshine that reaches the planet varies on its position, the time of day, the season, and the weather.
The photovoltaic effect
The sun does more than just produce light during the day for our world; each particle of sunlight (called a photon) that reaches Earth includes energy that powers our globe. Solar energy is the ultimate source responsible for all of Earth’s weather systems and energy sources, and enough solar radiation reaches the planet’s surface every hour could theoretically meet our global energy demands for nearly a full year.
Our sun, like any other star in the cosmos, functions similarly to a huge nuclear reactor. Nuclear fusion processes deep within the Sun’s core generate tremendous quantities of energy, which radiates outward from the Sun’s surface and into space as light and heat.
What purposes does solar energy serve?
The sun’s energy may be used in a variety of ways. Photovoltaics and solar thermal capture are the two major methods for utilising solar energy. Solar thermal capture is normally exclusively employed for energy production on enormous scales in utility solar installations, while photovoltaics is far more frequently used for smaller-scale power projects (like domestic solar panel installations). Lower temperature changes of solar thermal projects can be utilised for heating and cooling in addition to providing energy.
Solar energy is one of the cheapest and fastest-growing sources of power in the world, and it will continue to develop quickly in the years to come. The economic advantages of solar power increase along with the environmental advantages as solar panel technology advances annually.
How do solar panels function?
A solar panel, also known as a solar module, is made up of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass enclosure, and wire for moving the silicon-generated electricity. A nonmetal with conductive qualities, silicon can absorb sunlight and transform it into useful power. A silicon cell is exposed to light, which sets the silicon’s electrons in motion and starts an electric current. The overall operation of solar panel technology is described by what is known as the photovoltaic effect.
The following major steps make up the photovoltaic process:
- Solar radiation is absorbed by the silicon photovoltaic solar cell.
- The silicon cell is exposed to the sun’s rays, which cause electrons to start moving and produce an electric current.
- This direct current (DC) power is captured by wires and fed to a solar inverter, which transforms it into alternating current (AC) electricity.
Solar energy is a form of renewable energy
Any spot on the earth’s surface where sunlight reaches the surface may produce solar energy. Solar energy is a clean, affordable, renewable energy source that is used almost anywhere in the globe. Solar energy is an endless source of electricity since it is derived from the sun. Technologies based on renewable energy provide power from limitless resources. For instance, contrast the production of power from renewable resources vs fossil fuels. Because oil, gas, and coal took hundreds of thousands of years to generate, every time one of these precious resources is burnt to produce energy, it moves a little bit closer to depletion.
Interesting facts about Solar energy
- Abundant Energy: The most plentiful energy source on earth is solar energy, which continually bombards the planet with 173,000 terawatts of energy. That is more than 10,000 times the amount of energy used worldwide.
- Cost Effective: Since 2008, the price of solar panels has decreased by 80%. The price of developing and installing new solar power generating fell to $1.65 per watt in December 2016, just edging out its renewable counterpart wind ($1.66/Watt) and its rivals that use fossil fuels.
- You won’t have to pay anything for the power the solar panels generate once the initial fees are paid. Utilizing solar energy can also help you lower your carbon impact because it is completely renewable and green.
- Users of solar energy yearly save 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and 75 million barrels of oil. Additionally, the sun may provide a tremendous quantity of power: the Earth receives more energy from the sun in only one hour than it would use in a whole year.
- Use in Space Industry: Solar technology was adopted early by the space industry. The space industry started utilising solar technologies to power spacecraft in the 1950s. The Vanguard 1 is still the oldest man-made satellite in orbit, having travelled more than 6 billion miles. It was the first artificial earth satellite to be powered by solar cells.
- Effective use of solar energy through technology: With the use of contemporary technology, such as photovoltaic cells, solar heating, artificial photosynthesis, solar architecture, and solar thermal power, it is possible to capture solar energy, which is made up of the sun’s radiant heat and light.
- Solar panels are used to produce electricity. Even if the sun isn’t shining directly on the panels or if it’s overcast outside, the solar panel cells are still able to catch and use the colours reflected from the sky to generate electricity. However, the placement of your solar panels important, and before installation, you should take into account any potential shadow from nearby trees and structures.
- Active and Passive Solar energy: There are two types of solar technology: active and passive. Examples of active solar technology include solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels, which use sun energy. Construction of spaces with better air circulation and space orientation to make the most of sunlight are examples of passive technology. Dependent on how they gather, transform, and disperse sunlight, solar technologies can be passive or active. This allows solar energy to be captured at various levels across the world, mostly depending on the distance from the equator. All renewable energies, with the exception of geothermal and tidal power, obtain their energy either directly or indirectly from the Sun, even though solar energy generally refers to the utilisation of solar radiation for practical purposes.
- Because there is less solar radiation on the Earth’s surface at night for solar panels to capture, temporal fluctuation affects the potential of solar energy. As a result, solar panels are only able to absorb so much energy every day.
- Because clouds obscure the Sun’s incoming light and lower the amount of light available to solar cells, cloud cover can impact the potential of solar panels.
- New forms of Solar Panels: Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single silicon crystal. They have an efficiency that is around 5% higher than polycrystalline panels. Usually, additional costs accompany this higher efficiency. However, MOXIE is able to sell monocrystalline panels at around the same price as polycrystalline ones because to bulk purchase discounts.
- Because solar panels may only be installed on ground that is otherwise unoccupied and appropriate for solar panels, the availability of land has a significant impact on the amount of solar energy that is accessible. Solar panels may be installed on roofs since many individuals have found that they can use this method to harvest energy straight from their homes. Lands that can be utilised for solar plants that are not already used by enterprises are other regions that are appropriate for solar cells.
- Salt may be used to store solar energy: Because salt can retain heat from the sun’s beams long after dusk, it has been discovered to be an effective storage option for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) generators. This suggests that it could be the ideal method for storing renewable energy produced by CSP plants in desert regions, where there is an abundance of sunshine and undeveloped ground.
- You may utilise a specialised battery as a backup for your solar panel system when the sun isn’t shining. Net metering, a system connected to your city’s power grid that calculates the difference between the energy you take from the grid and the energy you send back to the grid, is what most current solar panels employ, though. Net metering is a simpler and more affordable solution than storing extra solar energy in batteries for managing energy shortfalls.
- Direct sunshine is not necessary for solar panels to generate power. However, the most energy is produced by direct sunshine.
- The sun needs hydrogen at the moment to fuel nuclear fusion. When all the hydrogen is used up, it will eventually transition to helium, but that won’t affect solar panels. They’ll keep producing electricity to power our houses using the sun’s beams.
- We would need to cover more than 191,000 square miles with solar panels if we wanted to power the entire planet with renewable energy.
- Even the best solar panels only have an efficiency of 30–40% at most. As a result, they operate at temperatures of up to 120–160 °F (50–70 °C).
- Solar radiation powers conventional solar panels. However, in 2014 Spanish researchers created solar panels that can transform solar infrared energy into electrical energy.
- In high latitudes, where there is insufficient sunshine for half the year, the use of solar energy is not particularly promising.
- Tengger Desert Solar Park in China is the biggest solar power facility in the world. Its efficiency reaches 1500 megawatts, which is on par with a nuclear power plant’s efficiency.
- Solar energy doesn’t generate any pollution, which is a by-product of using non-renewable energy and one of the major global killers, except from the emissions made during panel production. 3 As many individuals are harmed by pollution as are by HIV or malaria, and it also seriously harms young people, the elderly, and all other living things.
- Solar energy is silently produced by solar panels using the sun’s beams, therefore there is no noise pollution.
- The biggest sources of carbon emissions that cause global warming are coal-fired power facilities. Even oil harms the environment. Over a million gallons of petroleum seep into rivers, seas, and wells per year in the United States alone. Solar energy is crucial because it may lessen environmental damage and pollution.
- The quantity of sunlight that reaches the surface of the planet in an hour and a half is sufficient to provide all of the world’s energy needs for a complete year. Solar energy systems either use photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors to focus solar radiation to convert sunlight into electrical energy. This power can be converted into electricity, or it can be stored thermally or in batteries.
- There are many benefits to using solar energy to power your house, but we’ve distilled the list to the most significant ones.
- Reduces Electricity Cost: Most households prioritise lowering their monthly electric bills, and one easy method to do this is by producing your own energy using the sun’s energy.
- Environmentally Friendly: Compared to conventional non-green energy sources that mainly rely on fossil fuels, solar energy emits far fewer carbon emissions. Because solar energy does not burn fuel, greenhouse gas emissions are negligible. Each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy significantly lowers the emissions of harmful pollutants including sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter as well as CO2 and other greenhouse gases. More individuals utilising renewable energy will result in cleaner air.
- The sun will continue to shine for another 5 billion years or so, unlike finite resources like fossil fuels that will eventually run out and cannot be replenished. Being independent will enable us to expand our renewable resources as technology advances and we discover new applications for renewable energy in our daily lives.
- Solar insulation has a significant impact on the water cycle. Solar radiation is absorbed by the earth, seas, and atmosphere, causing their temperatures to rise. Convection occurs as warm air rises from the oceans. Clouds form as this air moves to high elevations due to condensation of water vapour. These clouds produce rain, which returns water to the earth’s surface, completing the water cycle.
- Solar powered hot water systems heat water using solar energy. Solar heating may provide 60 to 70% of household water for temperatures as high as 60 degrees Celsius in some places.
- Low Maintenance: Most solar energy systems have a very long guarantee, often up to 25 years. Maintenance is often limited to an annual cleaning, with the solar PV and solar thermal components needing to be replaced every 10 years. There are no moving components, thus there is less that may go wrong. You won’t have to spend much money on repairs because solar energy systems are simple to maintain. This also makes solar energy systems appealing to folks who are unable to repair or maintain household appliances.
- Passive solar ventilation systems are solar chimneys. Shafts link the building’s interior and outside. Glazing and the use of thermal mass materials can increase performance.
- Silicon as component of solar panel: Silicon is the primary component of the vast majority of (solar panel|) PV modules currently on the market. Since silicon is the second most plentiful element in the Earth’s crust, this is good news. One tonne of sand is used to make silicon cells, which generate as much power as burning 500,000 tonnes of coal. In contrast, using conventional fuels has led to a number of issues with the environment and human health, including acid rain, air pollution, smog, water pollution, rapidly filling landfills, and habitat destruction from oil spills and accidents. Carbon dioxide emissions have also contributed to climate change.
- Geographical factors have an impact on solar energy potential since places closer to the equator receive more sun radiation. However, in locations further from the equator, the adoption of photovoltaics that can track the Sun’s position can considerably boost the solar energy potential.
Direct sunshine is not required for solar panels to function
Even though sunlight is the most efficient, power is nevertheless generated in the winter and on gloomy days. On the other side, no power may be generated at night, however this issue can be fixed using a storage system. Selling extra electricity to the national grid and the advantages of becoming completely energy independent can cover the cost of the solar battery storage system. The fact that solar panels provide free power during the day, when it is more expensive and hence more valued, should still be taken into account.
Solar energy produces renewable energy by harnessing the light and heat of the sun. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic cells, are used to capture the most prevalent type of solar energy. They are positioned practically edge-to-edge in solar power plants to collect sunlight in wide regions. On sometimes, you’ll also find them perched on homes and other structures. Materials used in semiconductors are used to make the cells. The sun’s rays cause the atoms in the cells to lose their electrons when they strike them. This makes it possible for electrons to move freely within the cell and produce energy.
Photovoltaics, solar heating and cooling, and concentrating solar power are the three basic methods for utilising solar energy. To power everything from small gadgets like calculators and traffic signs up to houses and huge commercial enterprises, photovoltaics directly converts sunshine into electricity via an electrical process.
Solar energy is a very adaptable energy source that may be used to create utility-scale solar power plants or distributed production systems that are placed at or close to the point of consumption. Using cutting-edge solar + storage technology, both of these approaches can also store the energy they generate for distribution when the sun goes down.
For consumers and companies to have equal access to sustainable energy technologies like solar, all of these applications rely on supporting regulatory frameworks at the local, state, and federal levels.