What is Solar Power?

Solar power is energy from the sun. “Solar” is the Latin word for “sun” and, it’s a powerful source of energy. Without it, there will be no life. Solar energy is considered an important source for many years because of the vast amounts of energy that is made freely available if harnessed by modern technology.

Solar energy is renewable energy
Solar energy is renewable energy

It is renewable!

It is considered ‘Renewable Energy‘ because…

  • The technology used to convert the sun’s power into electricity does not produce smoke (carbon dioxide and other air pollutants).
  • Tapping the sun’s energy does not usually destroy the environment.

Unfortunately, the sun is not available at the night, and on some days, clouds and rains, and other natural conditions prevent the sun’s powerful rays from reaching us. That means that it is not always available. This is why we cannot rely on solar energy alone.

Solar cells

Solar cells are devices that convert light energy directly into electrical energy. In these cells, there are semiconductors (silicon alloys and other materials). You may have seen small solar cells on calculators or some mobile phones. Larger arrays of solar cells are used to power road signs, and even larger arrays are used to power satellites in orbit around Earth. Solar cells are also called photovoltaic cells or PV devices.

Solar panels

Solar panels are different from solar cells. Solar panels do not generate electricity directly. Instead, they heat water directly. A pump pushes cold water from a storage tank through pipes in the solar panel. The water is heated by heat energy from the Sun and returns to the tank. They are often located on the roofs of buildings where they can receive the most sunlight.

Solar panels
Solar panels

There is also the Solar Thermal Power Plant. Here, a concentration of the sun’s energy by many panels is used to heat water into steam, which is then used to turn turbines to produce electricity.

Guess what! Power stations of this nature usually need a lot of space to capture a lot of the sun’s energy!

The Parabolic Trough System uses this kind of system. Here, troughs are designed to direct the sun’s energy to absorber tubes as long as the sun is up.

Many of these Parabolic troughs are installed to collect massive energy for the rods to heat water to turn turbines.

Other less common methods that use the Solar Thermal Power Plant system are the Solar Dish and The Solar Power Tower.

Did you know…

In many African villages, the people use the sun’s energy to dry foodstuffs like fish, corn, snails, and cocoa for storage? That is raw solar energy in use. They spread the foods on large mats and trays in the hot sun for days until the required dryness is attained. This is common in regions with lots of the sun’s energy.