Since the beginning of time, people have been fascinated by the sun. Ancient civilizations personified the sun, worshipping it as a God or Goddess. Throughout history, farming and agriculture efforts have relied upon the sun’s rays to grow crops and sustain populations.
Only recently, however, have we developed the ability to harness the sun’s awesome power. The resulting technologies have promising implications for the future of renewable energy and sustainability. Below, we’ve given a brief on solar power, how it works, and what may be in store for the future of solar.
What is Solar Power?
Solar power is a form of energy harnessed from the power and heat of the sun’s rays. It is renewable, and therefore a “green” source of energy.
How Does it Work?
The most common way of harnessing energy from the sun is through photovoltaic (PV) panels – those large, mirror-like panels you’ve likely seen on rooftops, handheld solar devices, and even spacecrafts. These panels operate as conductors, taking in the sun’s rays, heating up, and creating energy (and electricity).
On a larger scale, solar thermal power plants also harness the power of the sun to create energy. These plants utilize the sun’s heat to boil water and, in turn, power steam turbines. These plants can supply power to thousands of people.
There are other ways we harness solar power. Read more about these various methods utilized today here via National Geographic.
How is Solar Power a “Greener” Option?
Just like wind power (link to blog), solar power is a virtually unlimited and inexhaustible resource (unlike power produced from expendable fossil fuels). As technologies improve and the materials used in PV panels become “greener,” the carbon footprint of solar power becomes smaller and smaller and the technique becomes more accessible to the masses.
What’s the Holdup? Why Isn’t Solar Power More Prevalent?
Similarly to wind power, solar power is contingent upon the weather and the amount of sunshine present in a specific location. This means that geographical areas lacking in sunlight, or areas that frequently experience cloudy weather, may have difficulty utilizing solar power effectively.
Additionally, solar power is an expensive endeavor. The technologies often require a large amount of land, and they can be extremely costly. Scientists are hard at work to find an affordable, efficient solution for harnessing solar power.
Did You Know?
- Every hour, the sun beats down with enough power to provide global energy for an entire year.
- It takes an average of eight minutes for energy to travel from the sun to the Earth.
- Scientists have used solar energy to power spaceships since 1958.
- Most solar panels used today have an average life expectancy of between 20-40 years.
Let the sunshine in! Interested in solar power for your home? There are a number of resources, projects, and products available online for families interested in going solar. To get the best bang for your buck, be sure to conduct thorough research before beginning any new effort.