solar field

Solar Energy

As our natural resources are being depleted alternative energy sources are increasing in demand. Green energy refers to clean, renewable sources of energy.  This type of energy is much less harmful to the environment and can be infinitely sustainable. One of the best examples of green energy is solar energy.

Solar energy is produced from sunlight. Man has always used the power of the sun and with advances in technology we have been able to more efficiently harness this energy. Solar power involves the use of solar panels which convert sunlight into electricity. Many automobile companies have spent millions of dollars performing the necessary research in attempts to build the perfect solar powered vehicle. Ideally, this technology would replace traditional gasoline-powered cars and remove the need for gasoline entirely. Solar-powered vehicles would store the energy in batteries which would then power an electric motor. This would eliminate the emission of gases, and would reduce the impact to the Earth’s climate.

There are three main methods for harnessing energy from sunlight. The first method involves directly converting the sun’s radiant light directly into an electrical charge. Photovoltaic systems, using solar cells, use this method and the process is referred to as active solar conversion. Solar panels are made of a special type of material which immediately converts light it receives into electricity. The disadvantage of this is that the electrical charge created by the solar panels is usually quite low. It requires a long time to charge a car battery to a full charge and it can only be done when the sun is shining.

The second method for harnessing energy from sunlight uses concentrators to reflect large amounts of sunlight to a very small area.  These are called concentrating solar power (CSP) systems.  The small area of light becomes extremely hot and can then be used as a heat source like that used in a typical power plant.  This type of system is usually more efficient and has a longer lifetime than the use of photovoltaic cells.

The third method does not convert sunlight into electricity and is referred to as passive solar energy conversion. It is widely used in the agriculture industry. Greenhouses are buildings specifically made to receive as much sun light as possible, while keeping the warmth trapped inside the building. This process converts light into heat energy. Greenhouses are usually constructed almost entirely out of glass which allows for sunlight to easily penetrate during daylight hours.

This ensures the plants get the maximum sunlight exposure they need to grow, while the warmth that is kept inside maintains a proper growing climate. This also gives the ability for farmers to grow crops which are not otherwise viable in the local climate. For example, flora which can only grow in warm climates can be grown inside a greenhouse because the warmth emulates the conditions are required for the plant to thrive. Another benefit of this method is that crops can be grown year round.