Solar energy is one of the most sustainable and reliable forms of energy currently available. It is readily available and does not require fossil fuels to produce. It is, therefore, perfect for our increasingly environmentally conscious world. Learning more about how solar energy works and how to use it can help you implement it into your daily life.
What Is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is simply the energy of the sun. The sun is the source of all life on Earth. It is perfect for generating energy because it provides us with billions of years of continuous sunlight. The energy it provides is free and unlimited. The only thing we have to do to capture it is build structures to store and direct it where we need it.
The sun provides us with more than enough energy to cover our needs. It is, however, a pretty inefficient form of energy. Only about 0.5% of the sunlight that hits the Earth is available for use. The vast majority of it is simply wasted. To put this into perspective, the Earth receives about 150 W/m² of sunlight. This is an average of 10 hours of sunlight every day. The majority of this sunlight is simply not useable because we cannot build structures to catch it all and store it for later use.
Even more staggering is the fact that the sun emits more energy in the form of heat than we know what to do with. About two-thirds of the sunlight that hits the Earth is lost due to being wasted as heat. The other third is trapped in our atmosphere and contributes to global warming. To put this into perspective, the average surface temperature of the Earth rises by about 5°C for every doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. More than a century of greenhouse gas emissions are entirely to blame for this disastrous state of affairs. Fortunately, there are renewable alternatives to this form of energy. They are called solar-generated electricity.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Solar energy can be stored and directed using solar collectors. These devices are capable of transforming sunlight into usable and reliable energy. There are three types of solar collectors:
- Cities typically use photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. These cells are usually made of silicon and can transform sunlight directly into electricity. They are, however, rather expensive and, therefore, only used for specific applications such as powering devices like LED lighting or charging batteries directly from the solar panels.
- Thermal solar collectors work on a different principle than photovoltaic cells. They use mirrors to focus sunlight and heat upon a blackened surface. The heated surface is, in turn, used to generate electricity. Thermal solar collectors are a bit more affordable than photovoltaic cells, but they are still rather expensive. In addition, they require constant maintenance to keep them working properly.
- A hybrid solar collector is a combination of the two. The mirrors used in thermal collectors are usually coated with a reflective material such as silver, which is much easier to maintain than raw materials such as copper or aluminum. The most common hybrid solar collector is the heliostat, which stands for “sun-tracking”. These devices capture the sun’s rays using a combination of mirrors and a tracking system. They are both fairly affordable and easy to maintain.
Where Can I Use Solar Energy?
Since we already established how efficient and available solar energy is, it is now time to ask where can I use it? Basically, you can use it in two ways. You can either use it directly to provide illumination or you can use it to produce electricity.
In terms of illumination, you can use it to light your home or garage. There are two primary ways of doing this. The first is to install a system of small mirrors called a “tiny mirror array”. These mirrors are attached to wooden boxes called “beetles”. The sunlight reflected by these mirrors is then focused using lenses or a combination of lenses and mirrors onto a small region of the sky called the “sun track”. There, the sunlight is concentrated using a small solar cell to power white or blue LEDs.
The second option is to use large panels made of photovoltaic cells. These panels can be made into any size or shape you like using simple to-the-point tools. When attached to the roof of your house or garage, they provide a very aesthetically pleasing and practically useful way to illuminate the area directly below them. You can buy ready-made solar panels or build them yourself using an online layout or a hardware store.
As for electricity, you can generate it using any type of solar collector listed above. Photovoltaic cells, being the most common type, are used to power devices connected to the electricity grid or used directly as a backup power supply. For those storing energy for later use, photovoltaic cells can be used to power a small electronic device called a “charge controller”. The charge controller prevents over- or undercharging of batteries during periods of direct sunlight. The advantage of this type of power supply is that it can increase or decrease in size depending on your needs. If you want to generate more electricity than you can use, you can always add more cells.
When Is The Best Time To Generate Electricity Using Solar Energy?
The best time to generate electricity using solar energy is during the day when the sun is at its peak. Photovoltaic cells are, therefore, usually used to power devices during the day. These cells are also used to charge batteries. During these times, the sun’s radiation is at its most effective. In order to get the most out of your solar energy, you need to have a clear area with a southern exposure. If you do not have enough direct sunlight during the day, you can use the sun’s rays at night using solar-powered light bulbs or candles. These options are, however, highly inefficient. They can also damage your health.
Why Should I Store Energy Using Solar Energy?
There are numerous advantages to storing energy using solar energy. The first and most obvious one is that it does not require continuous maintenance. Once set up, a typical solar-generated energy system needs very little care. The second is that it is reliable. As we established above, the sun is a source of boundless and sustainable energy. When there is enough sunlight, the system will operate without any problems. Finally, it is safe. Unlike other forms of energy, such as fossil fuels or nuclear power, there are no hazards associated with storing energy using solar energy. It is also, therefore, ideal for places where regular power outages occur due to extreme weather conditions or natural disasters. These places include, but are not limited to, remote islands, wilderness areas, and areas close to large bodies of water. These locations are prone to flooding or extreme winds that can damage the power grid. In these situations, storing energy using solar energy can prevent blackouts and protect the environment by reducing energy consumption.
In conclusion, solar energy is a perfect and highly sustainable form of energy. It is readily available, efficient, and easy to use. These factors make it attractive to those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on their energy bills. If you are interested in using this source of energy, make sure to learn more about how it works and how to use it effectively.