Let’s face it, the sun has been producing energy for billions of years.
Here is the history of its use by humanity.
(A) Solar Energy and Power
Solar energy is the light and heat from the Sun that has been harnessed by humans since ancient times using a range of ever-evolving technologies. Solar power technologies provide electrical generation by means of heat engines or photovoltaics. Once converted its uses are only limited by human ingenuity. A partial list of solar applications includes:
- · space heating and cooling through solar architecture
- · potable water via distillation and disinfection
- · daylighting
- · hot water
- · thermal energy for cooking
- · high temperature process heat for industrial purposes
(A) Solar Radiation
Solar radiation (along with secondary solar resources, such as, wind and wave power, hydroelectricity and biomass) account for most of the available renewable energy on Earth. Only a minuscule fraction of the available solar energy is used. (Source: Wikipedia)
(A) Solar Technologies
Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute sunlight. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels, solar thermal collectors, with electrical or mechanical equipment, to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.
(A) Solar Energy Basics
(B) Sunlight—through photovoltaic technology—provides buildings at Oberlin College with electricity.
The sun’s heat and light provide an abundant source of energy that can be harnessed in many ways. There are a variety of technologies that have been developed to take advantage of solar energy. These include concentrating solar power systems, passive solar heating and daylighting, photovoltaic systems, solar hot water, and solar process heat and space heating and cooling.
Solar power is used in large and small scale applications and systems for homes.
Even the private sector (businesses and industry) are diversifying their energy sources, improving efficiency, and saving money by choosing solar technologies.
Homeowners can also use solar technologies for heating and cooling and water heating, and may even be able to produce enough electricity to operate “off-grid” or to sell the extra electricity to the utilities, depending on local programs. The use of passive solar heating and daylighting design strategies can help both homes and commercial buildings operate more efficiently and make them more pleasant and comfortable places in which to live and work.
Beyond these localized uses of solar power, utilities and power plants are also taking advantage of the sun’s abundant energy resource and offering the benefits to their customers. Concentrating solar power systems allow power plants to produce electricity from the sun on a larger scale, which in turn allows consumers to take advantage of solar power without making the investment in personal solar technology systems.
Solar power technologies, from individual home systems to large-scale concentrating solar power systems, have the potential to help meet growing energy needs and provide diversity and reliability in energy supplies.