In one hour, the Earth is able to absorb and receive enough solar power for the electricity needs of every human being on Earth for a whole year.
Solar systems make use of sunlight and convert it into electrical energy through the photovoltaic (PV) panels or the huge blocks of mirrors that collect radiation coming from the sun. According to the United States Department of Energy, each hour 430 quintillion Joules of energy from the sun strikes the earth. While all humans collectively use 410 quintillion Joules annually.
How do we harness solar power?
Have you ever been driving and noticed huge reflective plates sitting on someone’s roof? They are there for a reason. They are responsible for collecting and absorbing sunlight to transform them into electricity.
Active solar techniques and methods collect radiation from the sun which is transformed into various energy sources. There are different ways to harness the sun’s energy, namely through photovoltaic cells, solar thermal technology, and passive solar heating.
Methods used in harnessing solar energy still heavily depend on different factors such as geography and available technology. The technology used is either passive or active. This depends on the way it absorbs and handles sunlight when converting it to usable energy.
Modern solar technology
The most common technique is the use of solar panels or huge plates contain photovoltaic (PV) cells. PV cells are semi-conductors that directly convert the light into electricity
There is also solar thermal technology or the process of collecting the sun’s heat. Solar thermal power plants use the heat created by these mirrors or reflectors to create steam which they then use to make electricity. While homeowners make use of this for simply heating up their water and even swimming pools.
What happens is that these mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays to heat a special kind of liquid which then boils water to create steam. The steam formed spins a turbine which produces electricity. After the steam cools down and condenses back to the water, it is again recycled and reheated.
Last but not the least, passive solar heating or the simple process of storing heat which helps homes or rooms feel warmer. It can be as simple as designing homes and buildings that take advantage of the sun’s placement by creating bigger windows, etc.
We should recognize how solar energy is an inexhaustible source of power that is safe and clean. Yet with all of these advantages that we get in using solar energy, we need to also acknowledge its weaknesses.
Solar energy is only as good as the system that you have – it is unable to work as a power source at night if you do not have batteries that can store energy or can even be unstable during the day if it is cloudy enough. It can also be costly to start out your own system.
Despite very minor pitfalls, this abundant energy source presents itself with returns that are just as great or even better.