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Solar energy is an alternative energy source that involves harnessing the radiant light energy emitted by the sun and converting it into electrical current. Since the middle of the 20th century, the ability to harness and utilize solar energy has greatly increased, making it possible for homes and businesses to make use of the renewal energy source rather than rely on more conventional means of generating power. That's why homeowners must research what is the best solar generator for their home; for example, ones that pay you back. Research into the applications of solar energy continue, along with the development of more cost-effective ways to capture and store the energy for future use.
At present, the most common means of harnessing solar power is the utilization of a system involving a series of solar panels and storage batteries. The panels collect the radiant light and store the captured energy in the batteries. While energy is stored, it can also be used real time to operate various types of machinery and home appliances. The excess is stored for use at night or in other situations where radiant light is not readily available for some reason.
In a home powered by solar energy, batteries are now capable or maintaining a power supply that will maintain the operation of appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, computers and entertainment devices such as television sets. At the same time, the solar powered home can also use the stored energy to heat and cool the home or operate a hot water heater. Some homes today use a hybrid power system that integrates the use of solar energy along with power supplied by a traditional power grid. While the home is not completely dependent on solar power, this type of system can minimize utility bills and provide an excellent backup system in the event that a section of the local power grid should fail.
Along with homes, health care facilities are becoming increasingly open to the idea of solar energy as a source of power in an emergency situation. This would allow a hospital to continue functioning even if the power failed for some reason and a backup generator system was unable to meet the current demand for power.
Once considered extremely expensive to build and install, the price for solar energy systems is considerably less than in the last decades of the 20th century. In addition to being more affordable, the newer solar energy systems are also much more efficient than previous generations, which helps them to be more appealing to homeowners and business owners alike.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is solar energy and how is it harnessed?
Solar energy is the light and heat from the Sun that can be harnessed using a range of technologies such as solar panels and solar thermal collectors. Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, where certain materials generate electric current when exposed to light.
Is solar power a reliable source of energy?
Yes, solar power is a reliable energy source, especially in areas with high solar irradiance. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar PV systems can have a reliability of 99.5% or higher. However, its intermittent nature requires grid integration strategies or storage solutions to ensure a constant supply.
How much of the world's energy comes from solar power?
As of 2021, solar energy accounts for about 3% of the world's electricity production. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity has reached around 707 gigawatts globally, indicating significant growth in solar energy adoption.
What are the environmental benefits of using solar energy?
Solar energy is a clean, renewable resource that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. Unlike fossil fuels, it doesn't release harmful gases during electricity generation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the average residential solar PV system can reduce emissions by more than 3 tons annually.
Can solar panels work on cloudy days or at night?
Solar panels can still generate power on cloudy days, albeit at reduced efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, while solar panels are most effective under direct sunlight, they can utilize diffuse sunlight on overcast days. However, they do not produce electricity at night and require storage solutions to provide power during dark hours.
What is the average lifespan of a solar panel, and are they recyclable?
The average lifespan of a solar panel is about 25-30 years, after which their efficiency gradually decreases. Solar panels are recyclable, and the industry is working towards improving recycling processes. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition reports that with proper recycling, valuable materials within panels can be recovered and reused.