Solar Energy is the most abundant, reliable, renewable energy source known to man. The sun radiates its energy onto our planet 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year long, for millions of years. This energy is converted into so many different sources on the planet, light, heat, wind, and rain to name a few. Man just has to figure out how to transform that energy into a form of energy that we can use.
Renewable Solar Energy takes it form as light coming through a window. Heat as the energy coming through the atmosphere, wind which is the hot air rising and the cooler air lowering and rain which is the water falling after the sun’s heat has evaporated the water from where ever it was laying.
One of the most common forms of Solar Energy is Light. Any home with a window, knows the power of solar light. Light is something that the planet needs to function, man even manipulates time so that he can have more light (as in daylight savings time). Light going through glass becomes radiant energy, transforming itself into heat. Man also capitalizes on radiant heat when designing buildings and homes, so that the structure absorbs the heat, giving the heat back in areas where the sun does on enter.
Man has figured out how to transform the light energy of the sun into electricity. This is know as Solar Power or Solar Electricity. The microelectronics industry produces solar cells that spread p type silicon over one type of material (usually glass), then spread n type silicon over another piece of material (again glass), then sandwich the two materials together. When the energy from the sunlight passes over this sandwiched material, it produces electricity. The stronger (brighter) the sunlight, the more electricity that is produced.
Solar Electricity is the fasted growing market within the renewable energy sector. A major drawback to Solar Electricity is when the sun goes down at night or during cloudy days. Battery systems are used to store excess energy produced. This excess energy is then used when the solar cells are not producing electricity. Homes are often connected to the local electric grid. This allows the home to draw on the grid at night or on cloudy days. Often the homeowner will receive a check from the local electric company for the excess electricity that was “given” back to the grid. The electric company measures how much electricity was generated, how much the home actually used, and refunds the difference. Over a period of time (usually years) these refunds will pay for the installation of the system. Once the system has been paid for, the effect is that the homeowner is getting their electricity for free, and any excess is being paid for.
Scientists have proven that the sun radiates enough energy on the planet in one day, to supply the whole world with enough energy for an entire year. The only question is how do we “capture” that energy, and transform it into something we could then use. The manufacturing costs of building solar cells is so expensive that it is not economically sound to try and produce such a system. With the rise in fossil fuel costs, and the lowering of the manufacturing costs of solar cells, we are reaching a point where it will be financially sound to produce such a system.