Solar energy is the most versatile of green energy. It has been used to power everything from satellites in space to cabins deep in the woods.
It is quiet, clean, and quickly becoming affordable for everyone to use.
How does solar power work?
Photovoltaic cells on solar panels are made of semiconductor materials which loosen the electrons from their atoms when the sunlight hits them. The electrons travel through the cell and create usable energy.
There are active solar energy systems and passive.
The active energy systems use some sort of electronic or mechanical device that converts the sun’s energy. Photovoltaic volts on panels would be an example of this system.
A passive system is one that stores or collects the energy without the use of electrical or mechanical devices. For example, heat absorbent materials on the walls and floor of a building collect heat throughout the day and then release it at night to keep the building warm.
There are different rates of efficiency for the varying types of cells.
Of course the more efficient they are the more expensive the material.
An important thing to remember is that most energy is lost in transfer.
So solar panels are pretty decent at energy conversion.
Because more efficiency costs so much, researchers are currently trying to find different materials such as plastics and nanoparticles to build the cells.
Even though efficiency isn’t super high on rooftop panels, it still saves homeowners thousands of dollars on their energy bills throughout the years.
New programs are equipping solar panels to homes at no cost to the homeowner. The free installation comes with a twenty-year contract, but seeing as most people never change their electric company the contract is low-risk.
What can solar power be used for?
Solar energy has been used to power satellites in space all the way to small cabins in the deep mountains.
Researchers are looking into ways for it to power our cars or to create solar panel roads that could absorb the sun’s energy.
With the right conditions and developments in technology, solar energy could power whole cities eventually. For now, it does a good job of powering smaller sections and saving people thousands of dollars in energy costs.
It is incredibly versatile, renewable, and of course clean energy.
How are solar plants developed?
Solar power plants, like anything else, takes some time to set up.
Legal counsel, financial counsel, financers, engineering firms, water rights, land rights, and appropriate transmission all must be considered when planning on where to build.
Transmission lines are very important as they are the way the energy gets to where it needs to go.
Additionally, they are high-voltage so it is important they are safe and efficiently get where they need to.
Solar power plants tend to take up a lot of room compared to the energy they output so that is another factor that must be considered.
The developer must make sure that the land they are building on is safe for the environment and that nothing valuable would be messed with or destroyed.
What are potential problems?
As mentioned briefly before, solar plants take up a lot of room as it is needed to get the amount of energy that could be useful on a broad scale.
It can be a challenge to find the room and needs necessary to get something up and going on a large scale.
Solar energy obviously stops working at night and during stormy/overcast weather. At this point the energy must be used from a battery that has stored excess during the day and sunny weather.
Solar energy can also be quite expensive to build (the cells are more expensive the more efficient they are. Though there are current developments being made to lessen the costs and make it more efficient.
Typically, it has been too expensive for the average family to install on their own homes, but this is quickly changing as more tax breaks and solar companies are making it very affordable to get solar panels.
Why solar energy?
Solar energy is fast becoming cheaper and more efficient.
It has become an energy saving device most middle-class families could easily afford and, therefore, save thousands on energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint.
Despite the high cost, solar power often pays itself off within five to ten years.
Solar energy is easily accessible and the developments in technology have the promise of being able to power our world more fully with solar energy.
And of course, like all green energy, it is renewable, clean, and much healthier for the planet and human lives.