The Sun’s light and heat can be harnessed to generate renewable or ‘green’ electricity. Solar energy is used to power everything from satellites and spacecraft to homes and power stations. You’ve likely seen the solar panels arranged edge-to-edge on power stations and in some residential roofs – these are called photovoltaic cells. The absorbing of the sun’s rays by these semiconductor materials causes electrons to loosen up and then flow in a direction that creates electricity.
You’ll also see large solar energy -thermal systems, which use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto receivers and produce steam. This type of energy is most often used in industrial facilities and large utility-scale projects.
Solar Energy: Illuminating the Path to a Clean and Sustainable Future
Solar power is a renewable energy resource, meaning it will continue to be available as long as the sun continues to rise. It is also considered clean energy because it does not release greenhouse gasses like fossil fuels do when burned.
There are two main types of solar energy – photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal. PV is the more familiar, and it converts sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are also found in calculators, laptops and other devices that require small amounts of electricity.
Solar-thermal technologies use solar to generate electricity and hot water for heating or cooling. They are primarily used in large commercial and industrial installations and are the focus of a lot of research because of their potential to provide more sustainable and cost-effective energy for our communities.