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What is Solar Energy Engineering?

By Samantha G. Dias
Updated May 23, 2024
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Solar energy engineering is the science behind capturing the sun’s radiant light and heat and converting these naturally occurring elements into electrical, thermal, and chemical outputs for practical use. This type of green engineering, also known as environmentally sustainable engineering, involves state-of-the-art work on a wide variety of solar power systems, including photovoltaic panels, solar collectors, hybrid solar lighting equipment, and fuel cells. These efforts aim to reduce the consumption of energy derived from traditional fossil fuels.

Initiatives related to solar energy engineering support a wide variety of agricultural, commercial, and industrial applications. They help generate electricity, treat water, and heat and cool structures. Through its use of a renewable resource — the sun — this type of energy generation and use helps meet human development needs for energy with minimal environmental impacts.

Engineering solutions for solar energy collection and use generally have the additional benefit of steady resource supply. This helps keep the price of that resource at a fixed price. As a result, engineering related to solar energy has a leg up over other energy sources like natural gas and oil.

Yet another benefit of solar energy installations is its relatively independent nature. That is, these energy solutions are often capable of supplying power independent of the power grid. This makes solar energy engineering a popular approach to providing energy to remote places. At the same time, these installations are small and flexible enough for use in highly populated urban settings.

Although solar energy tools have improved significantly since the late nineteenth century, there is still much work needed to be done to boost their output capability and overall efficiency. That's where the creative minds of solar energy engineers come in. Like wind energy, solar energy is an intermittent generation resource. This poses serious challenges when sunlight is unavailable at night or during certain seasonal or weather conditions. Solving this reliability problem is one of the chief goals of solar energy engineering, and this concern will likely be remedied in the future through improved energy storage techniques.

The number of annual solar power system installations have increased greatly around the world. Nevertheless, solar energy remains just a tiny portion of the word’s total energy production. Also, only an infinitesimal amount of the sun’s available energy is currently being used in this effort. It is said that the amount of solar energy absorbed by the earth’s surface in one hour exceeds the total amount of energy used by individuals the world over in an entire year. For this reason, there is tremendous growth potential inherent in the solar energy field.

According to the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries are expected to flourish worldwide in the coming years. In particular, analysts anticipate a marked increase in solar energy engineering opportunities for the foreseeable future. To meet the expanding need for solar energy engineers, numerous schools throughout the United States, Europe, and elsewhere now offer certification courses, training programs, and both undergraduate and graduate degrees specifically tailored to the solar energy engineering field. Prospective solar energy engineers are also typically required to study environmental laws and policies.

The Solar Panel Guide is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon308352 — On Dec 10, 2012

@dudla: I believe so, but it depends on where it's hit and its radius.

By dudla — On Jul 01, 2009

If a solar energy collection and distribution system can be independent of the overall power grid of a country, are these solar energy installations impervious to an EMP attack?

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