To understand solar energy, it is necessary to understand a little bit about the sun. Our local star is actually like a gigantic nuclear reactor that emits enough radiation to warm and light our planet. In fact, we enjoy enough extra solar energy to provide more than enough power for everybody on the planet. The trick is that the natural solar energy that we get is light, and it has to get converted into electricity in order to power the planet.
What is Solar Energy: Light to Electricity
Obviously, we need a tool to help us exploit this free and renewable source of power. With today’s technology, that tool is the solar panel. One of these panels actually consists of multiple solar cells, and those cells do most of the job.
These cells are made out of materials that emit electricity whenever they are struck by light. In fact, they emit DC current.
These are the most common materials used to make solar cells:
• Silicone: This are the most efficient material discovered so far, but it is also the most expensive.
• Thin film: This is a complex alloy, and the advantages of thin film are that it is cheaper and capable of being thinner and lighter than silicone. The problem is that it is not as efficient as silicone.
All of the cells on a panel are joined by a type of wire that transmits electricity to central wiring or other panels. Usually, the actual frame of the panel is either wood or a synthetic material. The number of PV cells on a panel can vary.
Why is Solar Energy Important as an Alternative Fuel Source?
Scientists and engineers know how to convert solar power into electricity in a clean way. Also, this resource is constantly renewable as long as the sun lasts. Lucky for us, that should be for billions of years. Meanwhile, oil and natural gas are not clean and renewable sources of energy. The EPA says that using these sources of energy is responsible for a large percentage of greenhouse gasses that are causing climate change.
Why Doesn’t Everybody Use Solar Energy?
Solar energy is getting better, but it is not perfect. The biggest problem with it is that solar panels only do a good job or producing electricity in full sun. They might be useless at night or on a cloudy day. Of course, batteries exist to store power, but they are expensive, so their use is usually pretty limited.
People who have home solar systems enjoy a lot of free energy, but they might not totally free from the power company. Meanwhile, home solar energy systems are large investments. Since solar power is fairly new, many homeowners might have an attitude that they want to wait until the bugs get worked out.
However, our society needs to do something about greenhouse gas emissions now, so the government does provide some incentives to try to convince more people to free themselves from the electric company as much as possible.