What is solar energy and how does it work? Learn how energy released from the sun in the form of thermal (heat) and light energy can recharge your batteries, power your appliances and even your home!
It's really quite amazing how solar power works. Energy released from the sun makes up a large portion of the electromagnetic spectrum which contains many forms of light energy, including visible light, ultraviolet light, and infrared light as well as others that we will discuss in another article.
The most important component of solar energy involves the photon which is the smallest possible packet of light energy. Photons have an extremely tiny mass, yet approximately 4.5 lbs. of sunlight strikes the earth's surface every second!
Harnessing this alternative energy source means we could power appliances in our home, portable gadgets that we take everywhere we go, and even heat the water that we shower with and wash dishes with every day. Can you imagine using the sun to cool your refrigerator or power your air conditioning unit? You can!
It's amazing to think that people across the world use the sun's power to cook their meals or keep the refrigerators that house vaccines at a controlled temperature. The possibilities for using this powerful and renewable energy source are nearly limitless as researchers and scientitsts continue to discover new and inventive outlets.
We can use solar energy to power:
Solar energy provides a great deal of energy to the earth's surface. Some of this is captured by plants and some organisms to carry out the process of photosynthesis.
This process is responsible for all of the human race's food production needs, including direct intake through vegetable and fruit processing and indirect intake through livestock and wild game consumption.
Solar energy also causes the movement of wind across Earth's surface as well as the convection of ocean currents and the storage of thermal energy in those oceans to moderate Earth's atmospheric temperatures.
Even with all these important things being "fueled" by solar radiation, a large proportion of energy from the sun is simply reflected back to space without being used. Imagine the amount of work that could be done with some of this energy if we capture it and convert it to other energy forms!
Scientists say that there is enough energy from the sun that comes to the Earth each day to fulfill all of our energy needs. In fact the Earth gets more energy from the sun in a single hour than our entire population can use in a year! We just need to learn how to use it!
In answering the "What is solar energy?" question, we ultimately want to know how much does it cost? The important thing concerning solar energy is this: IT'S FREE. Of course, this statement can be a bit misleading. The initial setup of any system in which to collect solar energy will cost something.
One of the biggest challenges to figuring out how to utilize the sun's energy efficiently is learning how to capture it so it can be used for cloudy or rainy days. Some strides forward with this type of technology have been made, but there's still so much more we need to learn and to put into practice.
Whether it's an old black barrel of rain water in which you collect passive solar energy to redistribute to a shop building, or an elaborate solar panel array on the roof of your house, the need to make a purchase as well as put in time and labor is there. How much you wish to spend depends entirely on what you want or need in a solar energy collection system.
More Great Solar Resources
Learn to build your own solar panel with our friends at Tropical-Rainforest-Animals.com
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