Last updated on September 19, 2021 3:13 pm
SEPTEMBER 19, 2021 1:01 PM
Lear More About Solar Energy
Solar energy from the sun is the most plentiful source of energy we have. It’s about 4.6 billion years old, with another five billion years of hydrogen fuel to burn in its lifetime. That gives us a renewable energy source that won’t run out any time soon
And it can be used without releasing greenhouse gases, or other harmful by-products. We can use that energy directly for hot water, lighting, heating, and even cooling. We can convert it to electricity to power anything from campervans to suburban homes, to shops, to industrial processes.
Solar could be the largest source of electricity in the world by 2050. And with the highest levels of solar irradiance per square meter of any continent in the world, Australia’s well placed to take advantage.
We already are – over two million households use solar technology, more than any other country. So how do we turn sunlight into something we can use? And how can we rely on it when it’s only available during the day? The two main technologies are solar photovoltaic and solar thermal.
Solar photovoltaic (or PV) is a way to convert sunlight into electricity. When light photons hit a photovoltaic panel, they excite electrons free, causing a charge to build up, which gives us electricity.
These solar panels are often installed on rooftops, integrated into building or vehicle designs, or attached to power plants in very large numbers. We’re working on low-cost panels that are environmentally friendly to produce, thin, and even flexible, so we can generate electricity from the sun in all kinds of places we couldn’t before.
The other technology, solar thermal, turns sunlight into heat. At low temperatures, we can heat water or air for residential and commercial buildings. But when we concentrate sunlight, we can get much higher temperatures, turning water into steam to spin turbines, which gives us electricity.
We’re leading the way on methods to get more out of sunlight by using mirrors and lenses. And we’re finding ways to store it for use when the sun’s not shining, a cheap and effective alternative to storing electricity in batteries.
Our need for energy to power our modern economy is always increasing – but with the sun available, and the right technology to harness it, we’ll keep the lights switched on.
Did you know that all of the energy we use comes from the sun? You probably know that’s true for solar panels, but the sun is also the ultimate source of
It works like this. The heat from the sun drives the air currents and water cycle that turn wind turbines and power hydroelectric dams. Meanwhile, the rays of the sun also the plants grow that ultimately become wood, coal, and gas. Learn More at Solar Smith Pros
What if we could cut out the middleman to open the most direct path between the sun and the energy we use every day? Let’s take a step back so we can understand the real power and potential of the sun.
The sun is a massive, flaming sphere of gases, 330 thousand times more massive than Earth. At its core, the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is 60 thousand times the temperature of your oven when you bake a pizza! The sun gives off LOTS of energy into space as heat and light, called solar energy.
If we could capture all of the solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface, we could continuously run a 25-inch television on every square meter of Earth – and still have energy some leftover! Right now, we aren’t using all this energy — instead, we mostly rely on coal, oil, natural gas, and other sources.
But these sources aren’t renewable, which means they’ll eventually run out. In fact, if we keep using these non-renewable resources at the rate we are now, we may run out of oil and gas in the next 50 or so years and coal in the next 115 years.
Not only are these non-renewable resources going to run out, they’re also polluting our planet and contributing to climate change. The sun’s energy, on the other hand, will not “run out” for the next 5 billion years.
That makes it a renewable resource. Other renewable resources like wind and water can also provide us with energy. But even all the energy we can get from all these sources added together is still less than 1 percent of the solar energy reaching Earth!! It’s clear that the potential of solar energy massively outshines its competitors.
How exactly do we harness solar energy? Solar panels directly convert sunlight into usable electricity using special materials, like silicon. Another way to harness solar energy is through a process called concentrated solar power, which uses thousands of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a tower.
The heat captured in the tower makes steam that flows through a steam turbine, which generates electricity. But even though we have these promising technologies to capture solar energy, there are still many challenges with using solar energy on a large scale.
For example, the amount of solar energy we can harness can change based on place and time. Some parts of the world get much more sun than others — solar panels in the Sahara desert will produce more energy than those in Seattle.
But even in the sunniest places, the sunlight still isn’t constant. The changing of seasons, the cycle from day to night, and even clouds in the sky can reduce the amount of available energy. To make solar energy usable when and where it’s less available, we need to improve energy storage and transmission systems.
Above all, we also need to make solar technologies more efficient and less expensive. Currently, less than 1% of all the energy produced and used in the United States comes from solar energy. But as more researchers, private citizens, entrepreneurs, and government agencies are recognizing its amazing potential, we’re moving closer to a solar-powered society every day.
The more we advance our use of solar energy, the brighter our future can be!