The sun's energy makes it posible for us to live on planet earth. Sunlight is used by plants to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds, like sugars, which allow the plant to grow. The bi-product of plants' digestive process is oxygen. The presence of oxygen has allowed animal life to evolve on earth. Now that we are at the end of the fossil fuel burning industrial age, there is more energy available from the sun than all the energy that we can dig out of the ground. And this reneweable source of energy will be available for the next 5 billion years.
Solar energy or solar power is the conversion of the sun's light and heat into a power source that can be used by humans for transportation, heating and cooling, manufacturing, and most of our other energy needs.
We highlight many of the uses of solar energy, such as solar electric production, solar heating and cooling, uses of solar, solar history, solar water heating, and solar products available today.
The basic building block of a photovoltaic system is a solar cell. It is made of silicon semiconductor material and converts light into electricity. A matrix of solar cells are wired together to make a solar panel, which typically outputs 12, 24, or 48 volts direct current (Vdc). A single solar panel can be used individually for small charging chores such charging a 12 volt battery or charging electronic equipment such as cell phones. However, to supply electricity to a whole household, several or many solar panels must be wired together to form a solar array. This solar array is usually mounted on an equator facing roof top or a metal post. The electrical output of your solar array is totally dependent on the amount of direct sunlight that hits the panels. Any obstructions, such as trees or clouds, will severely reduce the amount of electricity produced.
The sun can very efficiently heat and purify water. Solar water heaters typically use a pump to circulate water through pipe up to a solar concentrator. Cool water from your storage tank is fed into the lower side of the solar water heater. Hot water is pushed out of the top pipe going back the your storage unit. There are many variations on this theme. Some of the more basic designs are better suited for climates that don't have frost. More sophisticated designs are needed for cold weather climates. Find out more here.
Solar home heating refers mainly to good conscientous design to take advantage of the free resources given by the sun. Designing your home so that widest side of your house faces the sun and has appropriate grazing for climate to allow winter sun to penetrate the interior floors, wall, and fixtures is just one of the many techniques for reducing your energy bill. Passive and active solar heaters are another idea that has been well developed, tested, and implemented typically in situations where fuel costs are simply too expensive. Find out more about how to use the sun to heat your home in the winter.
Tags: solar energy, solar panels, Solar heating, photovoltaics, solar power, alternative energy