Solar power is energy derived from the sun’s radiation. The sun is a powerful source of energy and provides the Earth with as much energy every hour as we collectively use in a year worldwide. It is important that we continue to harness and increase our use of solar energy (and other clean, renewable energies) as fossil fuels become depleted and expensive. By investing in the clean energy economy, we can help ensure energy security right here in America and create millions of jobs without the need to outsource. Here's a look at a few ways solar power can be converted.
When you think of solar power, PV or solar panels usually come to mind. Even within the category of PV there are many applications and variants, but fundamentally, PV enables us to directly convert sunlight into electricity. PV arrays typically consist of solar cells which can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Concentrated Solar Power
Concentrated solar power is not a type of energy that can be obtained by installing equipment on top of a home or building. It requires the use of many mirrors across a broad expanse of land that focuses the power of the Sun on a fixed tower. The tower contains salt that is heated by the concentrated sunlight where it functions similar to a battery to store heat and generate steam after the Sun sets.
Active & Passive Solar Heating
Active solar heating is good way to make use of the Sun’s radiant energy. One example of this is with solar water heaters. As water slowly passes through a flat plate collector facing the Sun, The water becomes heated, then flows into a storage container to be used later.
Passive solar has the ability to heat entire buildings when utilized correctly. By constructing a building with large south-facing windows, the Sun’s energy can be captured during the day, then thermal storage materials can absorb the heat and slowly dissipate it throughout the night, keeping the building warm.
Solar Energy has Exploded Over the Last Decade
If you are thinking about having solar panels installed in your home, you should know you are not alone. In 1995, there were 10 megawatts of solar installed in the United States. Today? Over 10 gigawatts! That’s enough solar energy to power over two million homes across the country. And this expansion isn’t letting up. One reason is that the cost of solar panels has fallen over 60% since 2011, making solar more affordable than ever before.
How to Get Solar Panels for Your Home
The process of going solar is really quite simple. The first step on the journey is contacting an installer, then you’re off on your way to a future filled with sun. For a little more detail on how to get started, take a look at our article on the seven steps to solar.