The idea behind solar energy is quite simple: instead of depending on fossil fuels to provide us with electricity, we can instead power our homes and businesses with the energy of the sun. While it might seem like a far-fetched idea that we could power our cities on sunlight alone, solar energy has been around for centuries and has long been the preferred source of energy for rural areas. Modern-day solar energy also lets us harness the power of the sun without affecting the environment too much. Let’s take a quick look at the science behind solar energy and how it all works.
The Basics Of Solar Energy
You might think that solar energy is just one big thing, but it actually comes in several forms, including photovoltaic (PV) cells, solar thermal energy, and concentrated solar power (CSP). Let’s take a quick look at each one.
A photovoltaic cell is a fancy word for a solar cell. A photovoltaic cell is quite simply a panel that absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity using semiconductor devices (usually silicon-based) that produce voltage when exposed to light. Depending on how big you want your photovoltaic cell to be, you decide which one to get (they range from small to midsize). Smaller photovoltaic cells are quite common in products such as smart watches and fitness trackers due to their size; however, they also have a number of drawbacks, such as a short life expectancy (compared to other solar cell types) and low energy conversion efficiency. Midsize photovoltaic cells, on the other hand, are quite common in solar panels due to their efficiency and long life expectancy. When it comes to choosing between large and midsize photovoltaic cells, the answer is quite simple: if you’re going to be using the electricity that the cell produces, then go for the largest one possible. The benefit of using large photovoltaic cells is twofold: first, larger cells are more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity; and second, larger cells can tolerate more sunlight than smaller cells, leading to more efficient power production over time.
Solar Thermal Energy
Solar thermal energy is pretty self-explanatory: it’s just solar power stored in the form of hot water or steam. Essentially, the sunlight heats up a substance, which in turn produces the electricity that you need. There are quite a few different ways to store heat, such as in the ground or under a hot rock, but the most efficient and cost-effective option is usually a good old-fashioned insulated container. These days, storing solar thermal energy using an insulated container is quite common due to thermal energy’s many advantages, such as its ability to store heat for long periods of time and its independence from the seasons. Using solar thermal energy to power your home or business is quite simple: just connect the insulated container to a regular waterline and you’re good to go. Depending on how much heat you need and how large an insulated container you can fit, you decide which one to get. Most homes and small businesses use smaller solar thermal containers due to their size; however, if your home or business is large, then you’d need a bigger one.
Concentrated Solar Power
Last but not least, we have concentrated solar power. Concentrated solar power is quite simply solar energy that is collected (using mirrors) and then converted into electricity using high-efficiency solar cells. CSP offers a number of advantages, such as its ability to generate electricity at night or during cloudy days, and its independence from the seasons (it can produce electricity all year long). To make sure that your home or business is completely off of the grid and powered only by the energy of the sun, you need a backup generator to be on hand in case the power cuts out. Most homes and businesses use CSP to generate surplus electricity and use it to power other things in the home or business, such as water heaters and air-conditioning units. Whether you use CSP for electricity production or not, it’s a good idea to connect a solar battery to a circuit breaker in case of a power outage so that you don’t lose all your electricity in an instant (which would be quite frustrating, to say the least).
The Energy Source Is Everywhere
The fact that we can harness the power of the sun to generate electricity means that we can use it anywhere we want. This is quite a revolutionary concept for those of us that are still reliant on traditional energy sources, such as fossil fuels. If you live in a region that gets plenty of sunshine (and you use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind) then it’s quite easy to generate your own electricity using solely natural resources. You might not want to do this if you live somewhere else that doesn’t get much sunshine or if you rely on traditional energy sources for electricity (such as coal or petroleum) but if you think that it’s a better option than paying exorbitant electricity bills, then you can do it. Think of all the places you could use natural sunlight to help power your home or business: your rooftop, empty parking lot, nearby field, or even an unused part of your garden.
Why Not Go All-Solar?
If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last year or two, then you’d know that going green is a trend that’s been taking over the world. Staying power-neutral is also a trend that’s been gaining popularity as people realize how much damage climate change causes. Staying power-neutral means that you generate your own electricity using only renewable energy sources (solar and wind), and you ensure that no fossil fuels are used (meaning that you’re not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, which are quite harmful to our planet). Going all-solar is quite simply the most eco-friendly option available, as it doesn’t entail using any fossil fuels to generate electricity. Going all-solar is much simpler than you think. You don’t need an expert to tell you which solar cells to use or how to properly install them. You don’t need a solar battery bank either, as they’re quite large and can weigh a lot, making them hard to move around. Just grab a couple of small solar cells and you’re good to go.
While it might seem like a far-fetched idea that we could one day power our cities with the energy of the sun, it’s a concept that’s been around for centuries and one that’s finally gaining a lot of popularity, especially in the digital age.