What Is Solar Energy and How Does It Work? A Beginner's Guide

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What Is Solar Energy and How Does It Work? A Beginner's Guide

What is Solar energy?

Solar energy is the natural energy of radiant light and heat that we get from the Sun. This energy has been harnessed using modern technologies and utilized as a source of energy for daily life.

An Introduction to the Biggest Star

What do we know about the sun? As it’s a star, the sun is very hot and a million times bigger in size than our earth. That’s all true. Humans have learned to harness all the natural resources to make life survivable. Solar heat is one of the many ways to obtain energy because it’s the hottest ball of gas in the universe. Its outer layer is 6000 degrees C and its temperature gets warmer as we go deeper.

The Process of Nuclear Fusion

There’s a lot of nuclear fusion going on in the sun which fuses the nuclei of hydrogen into the helium nuclei. Every second about 620 metric tons of hydrogen are fused by the sun releasing a massive amount of energy which is the reason behind its excessive heat. Solar energy is also referred to as radiant energy because of the electromagnetic waves produced.

How does Solar Energy work?

There are two ways in which solar energy is harnessed:

  • Active solar heating
  • Passive solar heating

1. Active Solar Heating

Active solar heating is the process in which the sunlight is directly utilized by means of a solar collector which helps in absorbing solar energy. The most popular solar collector is a photovoltaic cell which is found in the solar panels fitted on rooftops and buildings that are used to produce electricity.

2. Passive Solar Heating

The most common example of passive solar heating is the greenhouse which traps the solar energy which is later utilized when the plants are not exposed to sunlight at night. The greenhouse makes it possible for plants to survive in cold.

Read More: Basic of Renewable and Non-Renewable Energy

Applications of Solar Energy

Solar energy can be consumed in many ways. It’s the main source of plant nutrition. The plants consume sunlight in the process of photosynthesis. That’s how they grow and develop as a source of food for humans and animals. One of the most preferred applications of solar energy is the generation of electricity.

Pros of solar energy

The best thing about solar energy is that it’s renewable, unlike oil and coal resources. Like wind and hydropower, solar energy also replenishes on its own. It is the safest source of energy in terms of the preservation of the ecosystem. There are no greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane released from solar energy which tend to warm up the earth’s atmosphere leading to adverse conditions like global warming.

Cons of solar energy

Unfortunately, scientists have so far been able to harness just about 15 to 20% of the energy from the sun, that too at exorbitant rates. Besides, solar cells are not affordable for everyone.

Secondly, the sun doesn’t appear at night which means that solar energy cannot be made for active use once the sun is gone, so alternatives will still be needed even if it becomes available for all at cheaper rates.

The engineers have manufactured solar-powered vehicles over the past few years but they’re still not up to the mark keeping in mind the affordability concerns of most buyers and short battery life. So the maximum utility of solar energy without all the loopholes and shortcomings is still in process.

Read more: Concept of Solar Eclipse

 Interesting facts:

  • If all the sunlight falling on the Earth is captured for just an hour, it can produce energy for a whole year consumable by the whole world.
  • A 3x3 patch of land in a sunny region acquires about 2000 KW solar energy per year.
  • You might save $20,000 or more in a year with a rooftop solar panel.
  • 100 tons of CO2 can be reduced with a residential PV system.
  • Solar energy is certainly healthier than the conventional ways of using the energy sources such as coal and fossil fuels.



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