Solar Energy Facts - The Basics of
Solar Power

This article will cover some of the most important solar energy facts you should be aware of when learning about this incredibly promising power source.

As alternative energy sources such as solar power become more popular, there is also a rise in the spread of incorrect information. Oftentimes, this misinformation is spread by well meaning people who simply don't understand solar energy. Let's set a few of the facts straight.

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is simply energy captured from the sun. At all times, the sun is throwing out massive amounts of energy as a result of the reactions happening inside it. This energy in its raw form is enough to meet the power needs of all the people on Earth many times over - the only difficult part has been harnessing that energy; at least, until recent times.

How Solar Energy is Captured

Solar energy is usually captured by means of devices called solar panels or solar collectors. A solar panel works by transforming certain wavelengths of light from the sun's rays into electricity. Solar panels are the form of solar device most commonly recognized - you have probably seen houses with these flat shiny panels on the roof.

A solar collector works by turning short wavelengths into longer ones, which can then be transformed into heat.

Why Solar Energy is Important

Solar energy is important because of the detrimental effects the current energy usage of the human population is having on the environment. The types of energy sources currently used, such as coal and oil, are unsustainable. And with the amount currently being consumed, it will not be long before we exhaust our supplies of these energy sources. What's more, the by-products of burning these fuels for energy create air pollution and lead to more serious effects, such as the Greenhouse Effect and global warming.

Solar energy has none of these negative side effects, and thus it represents one of the best options we have for maintaining a society that uses energy and electricity efficiently in the future.

Uses of Solar Energy

You can use solar energy for more or less anything you would want to power around the home. Solar energy is converted into electricity by way of the energy produced by solar panels, so it works just the same as the electricity that comes through your power lines. It can be used for heating, cooking, lighting, and powering any other electrical appliance. Solar refrigerators, solar air conditioners, and solar ovens are just a few of the ways you can utilize the energy from the sun efficiently. Solar energy is currently most commonly used in the United States for heating water.

You can even use solar power to re-charge your portable gadgets! Small, portable, and compact solar panels can power cameras, cell phones, computers, and more!

The Costs of Solar Energy

Many people have come to think of solar energy as a very expensive energy source. The truth is that the energy itself is completely free since it comes directly from sunlight. Setting up a home system to capture that energy is really where the investment begins. Yes, it can be expensive and many homeowners are shocked by the estimates they receive; at least initially. Let's be honest - the sticker shock is not pleasant.

This is particularly true in the United States, where oil is still much cheaper than it is in many other countries. This price relativity is the reason why solar homes and solar panels are more often seen in some countries outside the U.S.

The Good News About Solar Home Systems

Every year there is more research conducted on solar energy and the ways we can use it to decrease our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels. As these breakthroughs continue, the cost of solar is decreasing. It's only at a slight rate, and the investment you make in your home system for solar will still be significant, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.

The initial shock you receive when you see the large numbers is understandable, but think of it this way: when you take those numbers and spread them out over the years that you will have a solar source providing energy for your home, the cost becomes very, very reasonable. Take the time to do this so you'll see the big picture, not just the money going out for the system right at first. You'll be so glad you did!

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