Solar Power Overview
Solar energy is actually the source of
most all energy on earth. Other forms of energy are ultimately
conversions from solar energy.
Wind power for instance, is only available because of the differences
in temperature across the earth's surfaces. Water power is only possible
because of the process of evaporation creating rain on the earth. Plants
get their energy from the sun, and both animals and humans get energy
from eating plants and animals. Fossil fuels are believed to be the
fossilized remains of plants and animals, exposed to heat and
In the context of a renewable energy system, solar power is the
harnessing of radiant heat and light from the sun directly, and
converting it to electrical power or heat.
Solar energy is converted to electrical energy through crystalline or amorphous
silicon photovoltaic panels. The most popular of the two are the
crystalline silicon panels due to their higher output per square inch.
They are the most common usage of solar power and are doubling in
popularity every two years.
Solar energy can also be used to heat water through solar thermal
collectors that move water heated by the sun into a collection tank or
an existing hot water heater. Some systems have a separate pump that
moves fluid containing a type of antifreeze into a heat exchanger, which
then transfers the heat into the household hot water supply. These are
more suited to wintertime applications.
Solar lighting has become more popular of late--especially for
walkways and entrances to buildings. The lights contain a solar panel on
the top and a small battery to store the energy throughout the day. The
lights, which usually contain LED bulbs, then activate at night to
provide lighting well into the nighttime hours. This method saves energy
and eliminates the need to turn outdoor lighting on and off. It also
adds an attractive nighttime appearance to any house.
Solar ovens or solar cookers use concentrated sunlight, heat trapping
or light to heat conversion methods to cook food. All of us have seen
how a magnifying glass can start a fire; why not put that energy to use
and cook food with it? We've all heard the phrase during a hot summer
day, "It's hot enough to fry an egg out there." Solar ovens
and cookers make this a reality.
Solar shingles are shingles composed of photovoltaic cells, and are
dark purplish in color to give them a similar appearance to regular roof
shingles. They are installed by stapling them to the roofing cloth. They
capture the sunlight and convert it into electrical energy. They can be
installed alongside regular shingles or they can cover the entire roof.
They are more expensive than regular solar panels, but are aesthetically
more pleasing to the eye.
Solar attic fans operate like regular attic fans except they are
powered by a solar panel affixed to the top of the fan assembly. They
work well because they work to remove heat from your attic on the days
when the sun is most likely to be shining. Removing heat from the attic
reduces the load on your air conditioning system and extends the life of
your roof shingles.
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