Solar energy is one of the most widely known forms of energy. This power is energy produced from the sun that then is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is the most abundant renewable energy source. This means that this energy is rapidly replaced by the power made from the sun. Solar energy can be used as a heat source or an energy source.
Solar energy is used as a heat source in two ways: Passive heating and passive cooling. Passive solar energy is using the sun’s energy to heat or cool a building or home. Passive heating occurs when sunlight collides with an object that can absorb heat. There are five main elements that make up a passive solar design in a building or home: Collector, Absorber, Thermal Mass, Distribution, and Control. The collector is the area where the sunlight enters the building. Usually this a large glass window. Next, the sunlight hits the absorber or a dark surface, usually the floor or a wall, which absorbs the heat. Then, the heat is further absorbed by materials that can store the heat. This is the thermal mass or the material found underneath an absorber. Next, the heat is distributed throughout the building using a distributor. These different forms of transportation are known as, conduction, convection, and radiation. Finally, objects such as roof overhangs or differential thermostats are used to control under or overheating the building. The main objective of passive solar heating is to collect and store heat.
Passive cooling is the process of reducing unwanted heat. Passive cooling works in 4 main ways: Shading, Thermal Mass, Ventilation, Convective Cooling. Shading is using overhangs, awnings, or shutters to lessen the amount of heat that enters the building. Thermal mass is used to absorb and moderate the heat that enters the building and is cooled down at night so it can reabsorb more heat the next day. Ventilation helps to maintain a similar temperature on the inside of the building to that outside of the building. Lastly, convective cooling is used to shift the hot air inside the building to the outside and bring in the cool air from outside into the building. Overall, people use passive cooling to reduce the amount of heat in a building without using any energy.
Another way that solar power is used is as an energy source. One form of energy that it takes is electrical energy. Sunlight can be changed into electricity using solar photovoltaic devices or solar cells. Electrons become attracted to the surface of the photovoltaic cell which in turn causes a voltage to form. An imbalance of electrical charges is formed between the top and bottom of the cell and produces electricity that can power equipment. A well-known form of photovoltaic devices is a solar panel. These panels can be positioned together to produce electricity for a building or home. They can even be arranged into plants, where thousands of them are positioned together to provide electricity for a whole neighborhood or more. A smaller form of photovoltaic cells is seen in watches and calculators.
The research on solar energy has an extensive history. Alexandre Edmond Becquerel first discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839. Not too long after the discovery of the photovoltaic effect the first cell was created by Charles Fritts in 1883. In 1887 Heinrich Hertz discovered the photoelectric effect which Albert Einstein wrote a paper about in 1904. From there cells began to be used on spacecraft, cars, and homes. Developments on solar energy haven’t stopped and scientists even recently discovered sunless solar power. Solar energy is a neverending topic and discussion that has a considerable amount of history.
There are many advantages and disadvantages that come with solar power. A tremendous advantage is that solar power is pollution free and is a renewable source that is clean and available at any time. Solar power helps to reduce the need for nonrenewable sources like fossil fuels and oil. Solar panels require low maintenance and the installation of them creates much-needed jobs. Considering all of these advantages there are still some key disadvantages. Solar cells or photovoltaic cells can be expensive to produce and install. These cells also require a good amount of space that some areas may not have. A considerable disadvantage is that solar power is not available at certain times of the day, year, or certain weather conditions. Despite the disadvantages, solar power continues to be utilized throughout the world on a daily basis.
The future of solar power seems to be extremely prosperous. Solar power is cheaper than ever before and is said to be the lowest cost option for power in some parts of the world. Many companies are aspiring to create devices like stick on solar tiles or solar roof shingles that’ll make solar power more accessible. Car companies are also utilizing solar power in the creation of new models like Tesla. There was also recent development of a solar window which is a glass window that can produce electricity using the sunlight. So far they have been developed for commercial buildings but the company is working on creating them for homes. Solar energy is the fastest growing source of energy and has an exceptionally bright future ahead.
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