Solar Energy Basics

How Solar Energy Works

Solar energy is a relatively new field of study in terms of practical application, but its existence and effect on our planet is as old as the Earth itself.

The sun undergoes a never-ending series of light and heat producing reactions, comprising and sustaining its fiery mass while radiating these products outward. While some of this radiation is reflected back into space by the upper reaches of our atmosphere, a significant portion passes through and touches the Earth’s surface, powering a variety of natural processes important for the proper balance and functioning of the environment.

But solar energy can be harnessed by humans to power a wide variety of domestic, agricultural, and industrial applications, and is a rapidly-growing technology sector. The importance of moving towards clean, sustainable energy sources is paramount in the modern era, and solar energy provides the most promising and cost-effective solution for many uses.

Solar energy is employed in a number of ways, and can be used in a passive or active scheme, depending on design and desired output. Passive applications for solar energy include conscientious building construction in terms of alignment with the sun for heating and cooling purposes, as well as various greenhouse and farming technologies which allow solar heat to work with maximum efficacy and efficiency. Active uses for solar energy are most often materialized in the form of solar panels, which are accessible conversion tools useful for both large corporations and projects and individual consumers and homeowners.

Solar panels consist of a number of photovoltaic cells, which absorb solar energy and convert it to electric energy for practical use, storing the energy in a battery bank. The special photovoltaic cells contain electric contacts, which generate useful energy with electrons “grabbed” by the cells’ electric fields. These electrons are available to the cells once photons in direct sunlight come into contact with the surface of the panels, and are the key to creating clean, sustainable energy for the home and beyond.

As you might guess, the specific quality of the photovoltaic cells themselves as well as the number of cells laid over the surface of a solar panel help determine the overall efficacy and output of the panel. Factors including shading obstructions, weather patterns, and proper placement all have an impact on the production potential of a given panel and its set of photovoltaic cells.

Though the applications of solar energy vary, the common threads of efficiency and renewable sources render solar power an intelligent and effective way to power human lives without harming the environment.