How Does Solar Energy Work?
Solar energy is one of the many types of alternative sources for power being explored today. It is gaining in popularity and viability. But many of us still wonder, “How does solar energy work?”
Defining Solar Energy
The definition of solar energy varies depending on whom you talk to or where you look but they all mean the same thing. Solar energy is the radiation from the sun capable of producing heat, causing chemical reactions, or generating electricity. The sun puts out rays that can be used to generate electricity once they hit Earth.
So how does solar energy work? First, you need solar panels or a collection system. These collect the rays from the sun and convert them into useable energy. There are two kinds of solar panels.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels are used to create electricity while solar thermal panels are used to generate heat and to heat water. Solar thermal panels are the most popular. Using these solar tubes people heat their water and their homes.
More Sun, More Power
The efficiency of collection and conversion may be the reason that photovoltaic cells are not yet widely used. Each foot of panel only collects so much electricity at a time and not all that is collected is converted. In order to collect and convert enough of the solar rays into electricity, you would need more panels than many people have enough space for. Technological advances are producing a variety of new solar cells that are more productive at collecting and converting sunlight from any direction, are easier to manufacture and will eliminate many of the challenges associated with solar panels.
Newer, more efficient types of solar cells are the thin film collectors. Unlike the previous solar panels, these cells use materials such as cadmium telluride, amorphous silicon, and copper indium gallium selenide, which are applied in a thin layer to a supporting material such as ceramic. The technology behind these new cells allows them to collect and convert more energy per square foot, and they are easier to make than previous cells.
So how does solar energy work compared to other alternative energy methods? Wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric energies are all making great strides and developing rapidly. To decide if solar energy is right for you, you should first calculate how much sunlight you actually receive throughout the year as well as what your other alternatives are. The true comparison is currently dependent on your location, this may not be as much of an issue as the newer technology becomes mainstream.
Jump in Now or Later
In areas of high sunlight such as the southwest, solar power is a good option. However, in areas up north, this type of energy production may cost more than it is worth. With continued improvements in technology, solar energy will become more efficient at producing energy, have a wider range of applications, even in lower sunlight conditions and become much more affordable. Each alternative energy method has its ups and downs. The trick is finding out which one is right for you.
Hopefully your question “How does solar energy work?” has been answered successfully. While there are certain drawbacks, solar energy also has many benefits that are worth exploring and the future of solar promises to be much better.
To leave How Does Solar Energy Work? and return to Solar Energy, click here