An Introduction to Solar Energy

Solar energy is the only source of zero harmful emissions

Solar energy is the energy radiated by the Sun and absorbed by all living things, with photothermal energy. The solar energy we use on a daily basis is taken from this radiant energy and transformed into electrical energy by means of the photoelectric effect, resulting in an electric current. This is the most common form of energy used for electricity, being the sole contributor of the Earth’s nonrenewable resources.

The basic solar energy concept is relatively simple – light is harnessed from the Sun by solar cells or photovoltaic cells and then converted into electrical energy. Photovoltaic cells are the most extensively applied technology in solar energy applications and are also the most widely-used in residential energy systems today. This is because they take advantage of the inherent photoelectric potential of the light particles emitted by the Sun and transform it into a potentially usable electrical current.

captured solar radiation into usable electricity

To harness solar energy for household applications, a series of panels is required to collect solar radiation from the Sun. These panels are mounted on roof-top panels and face southward to capture the most radiation possible. Flat-plate collectors on the other hand are made up of plates covered with a laminated shield that deflects solar radiation before it has a chance to heat up and turn into heat. Once it has been captured, these panels are wired together to create a single, larger panel. This panel is then connected to transform the captured solar radiation into usable electricity.

However, there are significant drawbacks in using solar panels to generate electricity rather than using fossil-based energy sources such as coal, gas and oil. Solar energy is extremely volatile, so it can readily be lost in areas where the Sun’s rays fall on the ground or other unobstructed surfaces. This makes electricity produced from solar panels inherently intermittent, meaning electricity production will only be adequate for a short period of time. Also, even if it does sustain enough energy to power a home for a significant period of time, the amount of electricity produced is still relatively low, making the amount of money one earns from this source rather low.

Solar panels do have one major drawback

The inherent absorption of heat by the panels when exposed to sunlight. This heat can greatly reduce the efficiency of a solar energy system. Another problem lies in the fact that the amount of solar energy available to a home varies significantly year-to-year. The availability of sunlight also increases throughout the day, making it nearly impossible to predict how much sun will shine on a particular day.

Although solar energy is an excellent, environmentally-friendly source of alternative energy, it does have its drawbacks. There are many different ways to make use of solar energy to reduce the amount of electricity used, as well as to improve the way a home heats water. These different ways include active solar design, photovoltaic panels, and the utilization of geothermal heat pumps. Regardless of which method is chosen, each has its advantages and disadvantages that must be considered.

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