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What exactly is solar power?

Photovoltaic cells on the top of this auto propel the vehicle.

Solar energy is radiant energy that's produced by the sun. Every day the sun radiates, or sends out, a huge volume of energy. The sun radiates more energy in a single second than people have used since the beginning of time!

The energy of the sun originates from within the sun itself. Like other stars, the sun is a big ball of gases––mostly hydrogen and helium atoms.

The hydrogen atoms in the sun’s core combine to form helium and generate energy in a process called nuclear fusion. During nuclear fusion, the sun’s extremely high pressure and temperature cause hydrogen atoms to come apart and their nuclei (the central cores of the atoms) to fuse or combine. Four hydrogen nuclei fuse to become one helium atom. However, the helium atom contains less mass compared to four hydrogen atoms that fused. Some matter is lost during nuclear fusion. The lost matter is emitted into space as radiant energy.

It takes millions of years for the energy in the sun’s core to make its way to the solar surface, after which somewhat over eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles to earth. The solar energy travels to the earth at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, the speed of sunshine.

Simply a small portion of the energy radiated from the sun into space strikes our planet, one part in two billion. Yet this volume of energy is enormous. Each day enough energy strikes America to provide the nation’s energy needs for one and a half years!

Where does all this energy go?

About 15 percent of the sun’s energy which hits our planet is reflected back into space. Another 30 percent is used to evaporate water, which, lifted in to the atmosphere, produces rainfall. Solar power is absorbed by plants, the land, and the oceans. The remaining could be employed to supply our energy needs.

Who invented solar power?

Folks have harnessed solar technology for years and years. Since the seventh century B.C., people used simple magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun into beams so hot they'd cause wood to catch fire. More than 100 years ago in France, a scientist used heat from a solar collector to create steam to drive a steam engine. At the first of this century, scientists and engineers began researching ways to use solar technology in earnest. One important development was a remarkably efficient solar boiler introduced by Charles Greeley Abbott, an American astrophysicist, in 1936.

The solar hot water heater became popular at this time in Florida, California, and the Southwest. The industry started in the early 1920s and was in full swing prior to World War II. This growth lasted until the mid-1950s when low-cost natural gas became the primary fuel for heating American homes.

People and world governments remained largely indifferent to the possibilities of solar power until the oil shortages of the1970s. Today, people use solar energy to heat buildings and water and to generate electricity.

How we use solar energy today?

Solar power can be used in a variety of ways, of course. There are two simple types of solar power:

* Solar thermal energy collects the sun's warmth through one of two means: in water or in an anti-freeze (glycol) mixture.

* Solar photovoltaic energy converts the sun's radiation to usable electricity.

Listed below are the five most practical and popular ways that solar power can be used:

1. Small portable solar photovoltaic systems. We have seen these used everywhere, from calculators to solar garden tools. Portable units can be utilised for everything from RV appliances while single panel systems can be used traffic signs and remote monitoring stations.

2. Solar pool heating. Running water in direct circulation systems through a solar collector is a very practical way to heat water for your pool or hot tub.

3. Thermal glycol energy to heat water. In this method (indirect circulation), glycol is heated by the sun's rays and the heat is then transferred to water in a warm water tank. This technique of collecting the sun's energy is a lot more practical now than in the past. In areas as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, solar thermal to heat water is economically sound. It can pay for itself in three years or less.

4. Integrating solar photovoltaic energy into your home or office power. In lots of parts on the planet, solar photovoltaics is an economically feasible approach to supplement the power of anyone’s property. In Japan, photovoltaics are competitive with other kinds of power. In America alone, new incentive programs make this form of solar technology ever more viable in many states. A frequent and practical method of integrating solar energy into the power of your home or business is through the use of building integrated solar photovoltaics.

5. Large independent photovoltaic systems. If one has enough sun power at a site, he or she may be able to go off grid. A solar power system may be integrated with wind power or other kinds of renewable power to stay 'off the grid.'

How do photovoltaic panels work?

Silicon is mounted beneath non-reflective glass to produce photovoltaic panels. These panels collect photons from the sun, converting them into DC electrical power. The power created then flows into an inverter. The inverter transforms the power into basic voltage and AC electrical power.

Photovoltaic cells are prepared with particular materials called semiconductors such as silicon, which is presently the most generally used. When light hits the Photovoltaic cell, a specific share of it is absorbed inside the semiconductor material. This means that the energy of the absorbed light is given to the semiconductor.

The power unfastens the electrons, permitting them to run freely. Solar power cells also have more than one electric field that compel electrons unfastened by light absorption to flow in a specific direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by introducing metal links on the top and bottom of the -photovoltaic cell, the current can be drawn to use it externally.

Do you know the benefits and drawbacks of solar energy ?

Solar Pro Arguments

- Heating homes with oil or propane or using electricity from power plants running with coal and oil is a reason for climate change and climate disruption. Solar power, on the contrary, is clean and environmentally-friendly.

- Solar hot-water heaters require little maintenance, and their initial investment could be recovered within a relatively small amount of time.

- Solar hot-water heaters can work in almost any climate, even in very cold ones. Simply choose the right system for your climate: drainback, thermosyphon, batch-ICS, etc.

- Maintenance costs of solar powered systems are minimal and the warranties large.

- Financial incentives (USA, Canada, European states…) can help to eliminate the cost of the initial investment in solar technologies. The U.S. government, for example, offers tax credits for solar systems certified by by the SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation), which amount to 30 percent of the investment (2009-2016 period).

Solar Con Arguments

- The first investment in solar hot water heaters or in photovoltaic electric systems is greater than that required by conventional electric and gas heaters systems.

- The payback period of solar photovoltaic-electric systems is high, as well as those of solar space heating or solar cooling (only the solar hot water heating payback is short or relatively short).

- Some air cooling (solar space heating and the solar cooling systems) are costly, and rather untested technologies: solar air-con isn't, till now, a really economical option.

- The efficiency of solar powered systems is rather influenced by sunlight resources. It's in colder climates, where heating or electricity needs are higher, that the efficiency is smaller.

Writer’s Biography

Barbara Young writes to provide information to make the transition from a full-time energy dependent to successful energy efficiency. She started in 2008 to help people save energy using solar power or deal with the sometimes overwhelming prospect of starting a photovoltaic system. Prior to getting married, she spent more than three years as a teacher’s assistant.

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