Solar energy: The most important source of renewable energy of today

The world is evolving with technology at a rapid rate. Along with technology comes increased deforestation, mining, fossil fuels, and greenhouse gases. All these cause the earth’s atmosphere to accumulate heat energy that surpasses the earth’s capacity. Experts have now found out that the solution to these is renewable energy that has a nonpolluting character. Solar Energy came to life as a result of initiating renewable energy to produce electricity, heat, and chemical reactions.

Solar energy

What is Solar Energy? Solar Energy definition

Sun emanates radiance and heat inexhaustibly. The radiant light and heat energy that releases from the Sun to the earth is called Solar Energy. In contrast to fossil fuels and greenhouse gases, solar energy can cover all the future’s energy needs if yoked suitably with technology. Its nature of never-ending supply and the ability to turn into electricity has made it one of the most crucial sources of renewable energy. It is said that the total amount of heat radiance that enters the earth is hugely more than what is required as energy by the whole world. Today, it has become one of the attractive renewable energies because of its nature. 

Let us have a look at Solar Energy facts

The Sun is an extremely strong and powerful source of energy. Out of all the energy sources, sunlight is by far the largest source of energy the earth has received on a daily basis. The rays that emanate from the Sun is approximately 200,000 times more than the earth’s capacity for generating electricity. Can you imagine how powerful solar energy is? The world is now inventing technology to collect, store, and convert solar energy through solar panels. It can be converted to thermal energy (heat) or electricity. Why should we dig the earth when we have such a massive source of energy? Solar energy has also become one of the leading solutions to global warming and the greenhouse effect

The Sun is a nuclear reactor. It releases energy called photons that travel about 93 million miles to the earth in less than 8.5 minutes. Every hour, the Sun releases energy, which is enough to cover the global energy needs for an entire year! The earth’s surface absorbs solar radiation, land, ocean, and atmosphere. The energy mass that is absorbed by the ground keeps the average temperature of the entire planet at about 14 Celsius. Solar radiation is converted to technology in two parts; active or passive. 

Solar energy

Passive solar technology and Active Solar technology 

Active solar technology practices photovoltaic, solar power concentration, Thermal collectors of solar, pumps, and fans to transform sunlight into beneficial productions. Passive solar technology includes choosing resources with advantageous thermal channels, scheming spaces that automatically circulate air, and referencing the location of a building to the Sun. Active solar technology increases the supply of energy. It is measured as the supply side of technologies, while passive solar technology reduces the need for substitute properties and is usually measured as the demand side of technologies. 

How does solar energy work? – Thermal energy and electricity generation

Solar energy has now become irresistible renewable energy, which can be converted to either thermal energy (heat energy) or electricity. Scientists have found out that the energy from the Sun is more than sufficient to fulfill the entire world’s ALL energy needs. Many companies are now utilizing this vast amount of energy excess as thermal energy and electricity. 

How to convert solar radiation into thermal energy?

Flat-plate collectors are the devices that people use to capture and collect solar energy and convert it to thermal energy. They are used for solar heating. The Sun is an intense source of energy, but its intensity when it reaches the earth’s surface is relatively low. The concentration lowers down because of clouds and the atmosphere. It is also because of the radial spreading of the Sun’s radiance towards the earth. Since the intensity lowers down on the earth’s surface, flat-plate collectors are supposed to be spread out in a large area. In a sunny area, a collector plate should cover at least 430 square feet to collect sufficient energy to satisfy the energy needs of one individual.  

Solar thermal energy can be used to water heating, space cooling, space heating, and other heating processes. Solar thermal energy has been in the scene since 1878 when Augustin Mouchot built a solar steam engine successfully. It was not further developed due to other cheap fuels and coal in the industry. The world’s first Solar thermal station was established in Egypt during 1912 and 1913. 

Solar energy

How to heat water from solar energy?

Sunlight is used for water heating. Evacuated tube collectors and glazed flat-plates are used for domestic water heating. Unglazed flat-plates are used to heat swimming pools. As of now, Chine is the leading country that uses solar energy in thermal technology. 

Flat-plate collectors to collect solar energy

Most of the flat-plate collectors are made of a black metal plate covered with a glass sheet, probably one or two. It is heated by the sunlight that falls upon it. Flat-plates are made to convert this heat energy to air or water that is called ‘Carrier fluids.’ It flows through the back of the plate. The heat energy that collects upon the flat-plate can be used directly as heat energy or may be transferred into another form of storage. Usually, flat-plate collectors are used for water heaters and home heaters. 

Insulated tanks are used to store the water heated during hot periods, to be used at nights or cloudy days. This system is capable of supplying an entire house with hot water from the storage tank (insulated tank). Warm water can also be provided through the tubes that flow through the flat-plates connected to the ceiling. This heat energy can provide space heating. 

Solar Ponds as thermal energy converters

Solar Ponds are saltwater bodies that are specially designed to capture and collect solar energy. They are another way of converting solar radiation into thermal energy. Generally, solar ponds are used in the chemical industry, food industry, and products that apply to warm greenhouses, livestock, swimming pools, and business places. Compared to flat-plate collectors, solar ponds are relatively expensive to install and maintain. In rural areas have limited solar ponds because of their costly maintenance. 

Solar ovens are another invention of solar energy that helps in general cooking. Solar ovens are made to concentrate sunlight by gathering sun radiation from a wide plate to a central point. A black vessel converts it into heat. These Solar Ovens are ordinarily portable and require no other fuel to operate. 

Solar energy and electricity

Electricity is one of the most-used powers in the entire world. The technological world runs entirely on electricity by using it in one way or another. Even battery charged devices require electricity to charge batteries. It is the most wanted energy source by individuals and businesses alike. Solar energy is said to be in a substantial excess supply of energy that can surpass the entire world’s electrical energy needs. In the centuries to come, solar-powered electricity will take over, and we will be able to enjoy the benefits out of it. 

Presently, many countries have turned towards solar energy to produce electricity. It has become an attractive, FREE source of energy that comes to the earth endlessly. It was predicted in the 1920s that the unlimited rays from the Sun could uphold the earth’s entire electrical system one day. Solar Energy is the most provided source of energy that the earth has received so far. 

Solar energy

How does electricity work by solar energy?

Radiation from the Sun can be directly converted into electricity. The reason behind this is Photovoltaic cells that solar cells are comprised of. When the sun rays (sunlight) hits a cross-section between a metal and a semiconductor (e.g., silicon), a small electric voltage is generated. A single photovoltaic cell can generate up to two watts. However, when you connect a large number of photovoltaic cells in a solar panel, hundreds and thousands of kilowatts of power can be produced. These incidents typically happen in a large solar electric plantation or a household of solar panel array. In a report from the International Energy agency in 2017, it was recorded that solar has become the world’s fastest-growing power source because solar energy has surpassed the growth of all the other fuels. 

Solar Panels: The panel that collects energy and turns into electricity

You may wonder, “How do solar panels work?” Solar cells are made of semiconductors such as silicon. Photovoltaic (PV) Solar panels are made of many such solar cells. Solar panels are designed to store a positive and a negative layer just like in a battery. By storing positive and negative coats, panels create an electric field. Solar Panels create direct electricity where electrons move in one direction around the circuit. For instance, electrons go from the negative layer to the bulb and return to the positive layer. Since these PV solar panels generate direct electricity, an inverter needs to come in place to make AC electricity (altering current). Inverters are the brains of the system. They are used to convert direct electricity to Altering current (DC to AC). Inverters also provide ground fault protection and system stats. 

Let us have a look at how a solar panel system work. 

A simple solar panel that provides an entire house’s electricity has a very clean and neat system. First, solar panels should have a direct connection to sunlight. Therefore, it is best if you install the panel on the roof or on a high, empty area where sunlight hits the board without any disturbance. When the sunlight hits the board, the energy directly gets converted into electricity. Solar panels can only generate DC (direct current). The DC then flows into an inverter where it is converted into AC (altering current). The alteration from DC to AC will help you power your entire house. The process is comparatively simple and easy to understand. 

You cannot switch ‘OFF’ to a solar panel like your electrical socket.

So, what happens if you are not at home to use electricity on a very sunny day? What happens at night when solar panels do not generate DC (direct current) in real-time? You can now benefit from the system call ‘Net Meter”. This is a metering system that records every energy unit that the panel produces. The excess electricity is fed into a grid-tied PV system, which can be used another time (at night or on cloudy days). 

What other ways can we use solar energy apart from thermal energy and electricity?

Apart from creating thermal energy and electricity, solar energy also has some other applications. It is used to make salt from seawater. Some countries use solar power and convert it to heat for desalination of seawater. It helps seawater to become drinking water by taking all the salt out. 

Solar energy

Solar energy pros and cons. 

Every invention has its pros and cons. There are many good things about solar energy, starting from its nonpolluting nature. Let us have a look at the advantages of solar energy and the disadvantages of solar energy. 

Advantages:

Clean energy

Solar energy is a direct energy source that can be harnessed from the Sun, unlimitedly. It is also a source of clean energy that does not contaminate the environment. Unless the Sun does, which will not happen at least for the next 5 billion years (as predicted), we will have unlimited energy from the Sun. Therefore, there is no chance of us running out on solar radiation. 

Fights global warming and climate change

It is estimated that, by utilizing solar energy completely, we will contribute a lot of positivity to climate change, and it can save about 259 billion dollars worldwide. Solar power can minimize the usage of greenhouse gases, fossil fuels, deforestation, and other human activities that contribute to global warming & climate change

Government incentives 

Most governments motivate people to use solar energy as their course of electricity in their homes. Some countries even give incentives to those that use solar energy. So, get a solar panel and get benefitted both ways. 

Reduction in electricity bills 

Reduction in electricity bills Electricity bills can be one of the worst bills to pay due to all devices going electrical. If you have a solar-powered panel that can power your house, you can even share your excess electricity power with the neighbors or the nearby electricity board. Some countries pay you for it or give you reimbursement on the upcoming bill. 

Solar energy

Low maintenance

Solar panels do not have a high maintenance cost. Once installed, you are good for the next 20 years or so, depending on the quality. Usually, solar panel suppliers have more extended warranty periods. You have to clean the solar panel once or twice a year, which you can do by yourself. 

Apart from the advantages described above, solar energy is free of pollution and releases no greenhouse gases. It makes you more independent with your energy needs, rather than depending on expensive oils and fossil fuels. Solar energy is renewable and is available for FREE! It also massively helps the country’s economy because of solar technology and job openings. Solar panels can be installed anywhere as long as they have direct sunlight. Solar power can be used for heating, cooling, ventilation, homes, businesses, building, and even cars. It is found out that it is much safer than traditional current. 

Disadvantages:

Pollution at the time of installation

Solar energy is indeed environment-friendly and pollution-free. But when solar panels are transported and installed, they emit a small number of greenhouse gases.

Initial cost

Even though solar panels are very good at cutting costs in your electricity bills, it has a substantial initial cost. Solar panel installation comes with wiring, service charges, inverters, and batteries. All these have a very high price, and the customer HAS to purchase the entire set in order to enjoy solar energy. Nevertheless, the technology of solar panels is improving every year. Therefore, the initial cost should cut down in the future. 

Dependence on the weather

Solar panels depend on the Sun to give energy. On rainy or cloudy days, it might not generate any electricity at all. Even though you can store excess electricity, the technology to do so is not very advanced at the moment. Therefore, you might want to partially get the help of traditional current without depending on a solar panel entirely. 

Final words: Solar energy is the future of all energy sources! 

Yes, we do see the pros and cons of solar energy. But if we weigh the two sides, there are MANY advantages and good things about solar energy. Solar energy can fight climate change! What more is more important than that?! It is a free source of unlimited energy that can cover the entire world’s energy needs. Human beings have put in so much effort and energy to build unimaginable inventions to the world. They will come up with answers to the little disadvantages that seem to have solar panels. The essential thing is that we save the earth by using it without polluting and destroying it with greenhouse gases and fossil fuels.

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