How Does Solar Energy Work?

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While the energy industry has been dominated up to now by coal, oil, and gas, cleaner sources of energy like the sun and wind may play a much larger role in supplying energy needs in the future. Solar energy is produced when the sun’s radiation is converted into electricity. The development of solar technology has created a renewable source of energy that can be used to power individual homes and businesses or entire communities. The following is a brief description of how solar energy works.

The first step in the process is the use of photovoltaic cells to capture solar radiation and convert it to electricity. More specifically, when sunlight hits the cells, it excites electrons and promotes the flow of direct current electricity. The current then passes through an inverter that converts it to alternating current electricity, which is then sent to the breaker box of a home or business to be used as power.

Not only is solar energy a renewable resource, the technology used to control it is safe for the environment. During use, solar panels produce no emissions whatsoever; however, the manufacture of panels does have a small adverse impact in the form of emissions. Still, the production of solar panels produces only a tiny fraction of the amount of greenhouse gases produced by a gas-powered, coal-powered, or oil-powered plant.

One concern with solar power is the need for storage. Because solar panels can only produce electricity while the sun is shining, there has to be an alternate means of getting electricity at night and on cloudy days. At this time, solar energy can be stored in batteries and in the form of heated liquids like water or molten salt. Solar energy storage is expensive, but new developments in solar technology are addressing this concern.

As the need for clean, renewable energy grows, so will the solar industry. There are new breakthroughs in solar energy on the horizon that promise to improve the efficiency of transmitting and storing solar power. These improvements may bring the cost of generating electricity way down. To learn more about the impact of solar power on the energy industry, read this page.