What is Solar Power?

Did you know you can save on your electricity bill if you use solar power for your house? Well, solar energy is a renewable source of energy, which makes it less costly to use.

When you use conventional sources, you truly pay for the fuel that is burning to light up your house. On top of that, you’re emitting a hell lot of greenhouse gases, thus raising the temperature of the planet too!

We all know the sun won’t stop emitting its radiation. It’s an unlimited source of energy for us to tap.

So, how would you define solar energy?

The trapping of the heat and light of the sun to convert it into electricity is solar power or solar energy.

Now, your next question will be how is sunlight really trapped?

Well, there are various methods of generating electricity using the sun as its prime source. Let’s take a look.

Solar Power Generation

There are broadly 3 methods of generating electricity from sunlight:

1. Photovoltaics (PV)

The word “photovoltaic” comes from two sources: photons, which means light, and voltage which refers to electricity.

The system comprises a solar panel, which is installed on the rooftop or on a solar farm. It comprises several solar cells, usually made of silicon and crystal.

Here’s how it works:s

  • The cell is made of two types of silicon: The N-type and the P-type.
  • The N-type has more electrons and the P-type has extra space for electrons.
  • This creates an electric field within.
  • When sunlight enters the panel, it separates the electrons from the atoms of the solar cells.
  • Due to the existing field, the electrons move in one direction, which generates electricity.
  • These electrons only go back to their original source.
  • This makes solar cells last for decades.

2. Concentrated Solar Power System

This method uses mirrors or lenses to trap solar energy. Just as steam generated from coal produces electricity, this technique produces the same using water and the sun’s heat. A generator is connected to the plant.

Concentrated Solar Power System

Let’s see how it works:

  • When light falls on mirrors, it reflects it to the receiver tubes.
  • These tubes contain liquids like oil or molten salt.
  • This liquid heats the water until it becomes steam.
  • This steam passes through a turbine that passes it to the generator.
  • At last, the generator converts steam into electricity.
  • 3. Hybrid Method

A hybrid combines both these methods to generate solar power or combines solar panels with another source of energy.

The former includes connecting solar panels with thermal energy generators while the latter combines solar plants with wind turbines, biogas, or diesel generators.

Other Sources of Renewable Energy

There are several other sources of renewable energy apart from the sun. The most commonly known are:

  • Wind energy
  • Hydroelectricity
  • Tidal energy
  • Biogas

In temperate regions that do not receive much sunlight, these alternative sources are being tapped to generate electricity. Since they too have limitations, technology is being developed to combine solar energy with these sources of energy.

The Future of Solar Energy

A lot of new technologies are emerging to tap solar energy in every corner of the globe. Our limited resources of coal and petroleum have started depleting. This has led to tapping the unlimited resource not only to generate electricity but also to heat water and cook food.

Of course, the maximum potential for utilizing solar power is in the tropical regions of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

It is predicted by the International Energy Agency that by 2050, solar will be the highest contributor to electricity generation in the world. In India, the world’s biggest solar park is under construction which will produce 175 GW of electricity.

Solar power has tremendous potential for nullifying your contribution to the carbon footprint. Like I said, today you save on your electricity bill by switching to this renewable source of energy too. Who wouldn’t like to save money by being eco-friendly?

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