Solar energy is created by nuclear fusion that takes place in the sun. This process releases a great amount of energy in the form of waves and particles that are constantly flowing away from the sun and throughout the solar system. Solar energy warms our planet, causes wind and weather, sustains plant and animal life. According to the scientists solar energy will be available for at least 5 billion years!
Solar energy can be harnessed directly or indirectly for human use in homes, businesses, schools etc. The main solar energy technologies include photovoltaic systems (producing electricity directly from sunlight) and solar heating systems (heating different fluids with solar energy). Photovoltaic energy production is probably the most familiar way to harness solar energy.
Photovoltaic effect, the operating principle of the solar cell, was discovered in 1839 by a physicist called Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel. In his experiment, he placed silver chloride in an acidic solution and illuminated it while it was connected to platinum electrodes. As a result, it generated voltage and current. This way Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect and explained how electricity can be produced from sunlight. Without Becquerel’s discovery humankind might have been stuck on using oils and fossil fuels as a main energy resource.
The major advantage to using solar energy is that it is a renewable resource. We will have a relatively steady and limitless supply of sunlight for another 5 billion years. In one hour, the earth’s atmosphere receives enough sunlight to power the electricity needs of every human being on this planet during one year. Solar power is also scalable. This means that it can be deployed on an industrial scale, or it can be used to power a single household. Electricity produced by solar energy call also be stored in a battery and power small devices as lanterns, parking meters, water pumps etc.
The main disadvantage of using solar energy is the required equipment. Solar technology equipment can be expensive although the technology cost has been decreasing substantially in the last decade and governments often offer reduced taxes to people and businesses using solar energy. Overall, the sun gives off far more energy than we’ll ever need. The only limitation is our ability to convert it to electricity in a cost-effective way.
For more information about solar energy you can check the following resources:
Source: Energy 101
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