Solar energy is energy from the sun, the ultimate source of energy and fuels used today. The radiant light and heat from the sun are harnessed for home and commercial use. It is one of the renewable sources of energy. The sun is a natural nuclear reactor that releases tiny packets of energy known as photons, which travel ninety-three million miles in 8.5 minutes. Every hour enough photons impact the earth to generate solar energy to satisfy global needs for an entire year. Solar energy systems come in all shapes and sizes. Residential systems are found on rooftops, and businesses also appreciate the energy costs offset by installing solar panels. Similarly, utilities build large solar power plants to provide cleaner energy to all customers connected to the grid.
Various technologies have been developed that convert sunlight to usable energy, but the most widely used is solar panels. There are two main types – photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP). PV is utilized in panels. When the sun shines onto a panel, photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the cells in the panel, creating an electric field across the layers and causing electricity to flow. With CSP, it is used on very large power plants. It uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, then used to produce electricity.
Solar energy has its benefits and limitations. Solar energy systems do not produce air pollutants; they have minimal environmental effects. However, the amount of sunlight arriving at the earth’s surface is not usually constant. It varies depending on the time of day, location, and climatic conditions. Also, a large surface area is required to absorb a useful amount of energy. Solar is becoming the world’s fastest-growing power source, marking the first time that solar energy’s advancement has outdone all other fuels. In future years, we will all appreciate the benefits of solar-generated electricity in many ways.