Solar Energy

Why do we need energy?

We need energy on Earth for many different reasons. Energy is the source of power that makes things work. As an example, just think about all the things you do every day that require electrical energy. These might include things like the use of electrical appliances, heaters or even turning on a light switch. Other types of energy are used to power vehicles like cars, move mechanical parts and carry out every moving function known to us. Even plants and animals need energy in order to carry out simple survival functions.

Energy in its many forms is fundamental to the functioning of society as we know it. There are, however, some issues with some types of energy production, particularly those involving coal and oil. One major issue is that the traditional processes of generating electricity, and many other forms of energy, have become a major source of industrial air pollution. In other words, energy production often results in emissions that are slowly damaging our environment. One way of combating this problem is to adopt methods of energy production that are natural, clean and free of damaging emissions.

What is solar energy?

As well as providing our planet with daylight and warmth for survival, the sun is capable of achieving another important function. It can supply the Earth and surrounding areas with energy. In fact, the sun is the main source of most forms of energy on Earth. Energy that comes from the sun is called solar energy. Once this solar energy is converted into heat or electrical energy, it is referred to as solar power

Why use solar energy?

A number of methods of harnessing energy from the sun have been used for centuries. These methods have become more popular in recent years. This is because supplies of other power sources are beginning to run low and our environment is suffering as a result of traditional methods.

There are many benefits of using solar energy over other energy production. Firstly, solar energy is abundant. This means that the amount of sunlight available to us is never likely to run out. There is always a constant supply. A solar cell will continue to produce power as long as the sun shines on it.

Solar energy is also accessible from anywhere on Earth and even areas outside Earth that receive light from the sun. This reduces the need to import and export substances like fuels. Exporting and importing costs money and is time-consuming.

Many remote locations use solar power as their main energy source because they do not have access to other sources of power. In space too, solar power is the main source as there are no other power supplies available. Most satellites today are powered by solar cells. The solar cells are reliable and need no other fuel but sunlight. This makes them ideal for use in space.

Among one of the most important benefits of solar energy is that no chemical emissions are produced in the process. In the future, the increasing use of solar energy is likely to improve the quality of the air that we breathe.

How do we collect energy from the sun?

There are a number of ways that we can collect energy from the sun. After passing through the Earth's atmosphere, most of the sun's energy is in the form of visible light and ultraviolet light. Plants use this energy from the sun to create chemical energy. This conversion of sunlight to chemical energy is called photosynthesis. All living things depend on this process for survival. This is because all animals and humans rely on nourishment from plants. Plants also produce oxygen through photosynthesis which is also vital for animal and human survival.

Another way of collecting solar energy is through the use of solar cells. Solar cells are mirror-like objects that retain the sun's energy. They are positioned in places that are likely to receive maximum sunlight. The energy retained in the cells is then converted into other types of energy, including electrical power. 

So how does this conversion happen? Solar cells are made mainly of silicon but also contain the chemicals boron and phosphorous. These chemicals form an imbalance of electrons (particles with an electrical charge) within the silicon cell. This imbalance creates an electrical current (a force caused by the charged object). This current then creates energy. The process of converting light directly into electrical energy (or electricity) is called the photovoltaic effect.

Apart from sunlight being directly converted into electricity, there are other ways that the sun's energy can be used. Reflective materials, like solar cells, can be used to concentrate the sun's heat. In other words, cells are used to focus the heat on a particular area so that it becomes much stronger and hotter. The concentrated heat is then strong enough to be used to power generators. Generators are machines that produce electricity.

Solar panels can also be used to absorb the sun's energy to provide heat for things like hot water in buildings or heat in swimming pools. Solar panels are many solar cells put together. They are also positioned in places that receive maximum sunlight. You may have even seen solar panels on the roofs of houses. Their job is to collect sunlight during the day to provide various sources of power to the house.

Another way that sunlight can be collected is by focussing it into special fibre optic systems. These systems are made up of tiny, hair-thin transparent fibres. The fibres can transport the sunlight with a very low loss of light. The sunlight enters the fibres at one end and then a receiver at the other end converts the light into an electrical signal. This process is mainly used to supply lighting to buildings. 

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