How Does Solar Energy Work

By guest writer, Anne. L.

Wondering how does solar energy work?

I hope to shed some light.

The sun is an important source of energy to all life on our planet. Other than light and heat energy, there are many other types of secondary energy that is available because of the activity of the sun, for example the wind, waves in the ocean, and biomass – plant material that is created from absorbing light energy from the sun and can be released through ways like burning.

In turn, solar energy is the light and heat energy that comes from the sun. The sun is a star in the center of our planetary system made up primarily of the lightest elements in the universe – Hydrogen and Helium. Every minute and second, these elements are being burnt to produce the heat and light rays of the sun.

Solar energy has been harnessed in varying ways by humans since ancient times. The energy received from the sun on the Earth’s surface in an hour is more than the world uses in a whole year. It’s little wonder why we have a strong need to understand how does solar energy work to harness this immense source of energy.

When it comes to the question of “how does solar energy work”, there is no single answer.

One method of how does solar energy work is through the solar panel. Harnessing solar energy through solar panels was first discovered in 1839. Read more about solar energy history.

A single solar panel contains a photovoltaic cell – this is a material that generates an electric current when exposed to light. Electrons are being ejected to a different band within the photovoltaic cell material upon exposure to the photons in the sun’s light rays. This stream of electrons essentially allows a battery to form, one that is constantly being charged by interaction with the sun’s energy. Read more on facts about solar energy panels and how you can build your own solar panel.

Although potentially expensive to install initially, solar panels can potentially bring large savings to users over time. The challenge would be to improve the existing efficiency of solar panels. Read more on solar energy efficiency and other solar energy facts like solar energy advantages and solar energy disadvantages.

Contrary to common perceptions, harnessing solar energy is not only about using solar panels. There are other simple ways of harnessing solar energy. Imagine heating a water bottle by leaving it out in the sun, or using a reflective dish to harness enough of the sun’s rays to cook with. In fact, this method is so cheap and widely available that organizations have distributed deep, reflective cooking dishes (primarily in developing countries) in order to promote solar cooking as an alternative to deforestation (where wood is burned to heat food). Read more about how modern technologies have made use of such methods of concentrating solar power to generate electricity from the sun.

The uses of solar energy are many and varied, so applications are limited only by what humans can imagine and create.

Today, some green eco houses are built with large glass window panes so as to tap on the sun’s energy. Such panes help to decrease the need for electric lights to lit rooms, as the energy efficient house plans optimizes the amount of sunlight that enters the room in the day. In addition, the eco houses in colder climates also make use of the warmth from the sun’s solar power energy to heat up rooms, and thus help home makers reduce heating bills.

Whether via solar panels or a smarter house design, we can all use solar energy in our daily lives to decrease our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. There is so much free, clean and renewable energy falling on Earth everyday that it would be silly not to recognize this source and harness it for our greater good.

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