Let’s face it, the sun has been producing energy for billions of years. Here’s the history of its use by humanity.

Solar energy and power

Solar energy is the light and heat from the Sun. It also has been harnessed by humans since ancient times. Thereby using a range of ever-evolving technologies. Solar power technologies also 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:

  1. Space heating and cooling through solar architecture
  2. Potable water via distillation and disinfection

  3. Daylighting

  4. Hot water

  5. Thermal energy for cooking

  6. High temperature process heat for industrial purposes

Solar energy basics

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. Let’s face it. How many people in your neighborhood use solar? I mean a minuscule fraction of the available solar energy is in use. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Solar power is also used in small and large scale applications. Solar energy powers my home. However it can also power businesses and machinery.

So certainly, it’s a sector that is constantly growing rapidly across the globe. I mean more countries and individuals are seeking ways to go solar. And it’s now more accessible and cost-effective than ever. According to the International Energy Agency, solar power will be the main source of electricity by 2050.

Solar technologies

Therefore and to take advantage of the benefits of solar energy needs tech. So a variety of technologies have been developed including energy storage too. However these technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar. In short, it depends on the way they capture, convert and also distribute sunlight.

For active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels. Also solar thermal collectors with the use of electrical or mechanical equipment. Consequently to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Therefore, passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun. I mean selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light. The dispersing properties and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.

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Additionally, some technologies include concentrating solar power systems, passive solar heating and day lighting, photovoltaic systems, solar hot water, and solar process heat and space heating and cooling.

Powering homes with the sun

Homeowners can use solar technologies to power, heat or cool their homes in addition to powering appliances and water heating. Depending on local programs, some can even produce enough electricity to operate “off-grid” or sell extra electricity to utilities. The use of passive solar heating and daylighting design strategies can help both homes and commercial buildings operate more efficiently. Therefore, making them more pleasant and comfortable places to live and work.

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Beyond these localized uses of solar power, utility companies and power plants are also taking advantage of the sun’s abundant energy resource. As a result, they provide their customers with more benefits and savings.

Larger projects

On a large scale, concentrating solar power systems allow power plants to produce electricity from the sun. In turn, it allows consumers to take advantage of solar power without making the investment in personal solar technology systems.

The Solucar PS10 is the first solar thermal power plant tower in the world to generate electricity in a commercial way. According to Power Technology, the 40-story concrete tower which is located near Seville in Spain, produces about 23,400 megawatt-hours (MW·h) annually. The sun’s heat and light provides an abundant source of energy that can be harnessed in many ways. The power plant is comprised of 624 colossal mirrors called heliostats that reflect sunlight for the tower to collect.

Even the private sector (businesses and industry) are diversifying their energy sources, improving efficiency, and saving money by choosing solar technologies. In Ohio, Oberlin College is working to divest from coal and move towards solar power. To do so, they are partnering with the city of Oberlin and local businesses to complete the Oberlin Project.

According to the college, they are securing a power purchasing agreement for 2.26 megawatts of solar power. Sean Hayes is the new executive director of the Oberlin Project. He says the city has made great progress when it comes to energy. With the help of the college they are working to become a “Climate Positive City.” Overall, the goal is to slash the city’s greenhouse gas emissions below zero by 2050.

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