Most people by now will have heard of solar energy and will have a good idea of what it is, but that doesn't mean that they necessarily know everything there is to know about it. Indeed scientists don't know everything there is to know about solar energy, which is partly what makes it so fascinating. So even if you think you have a good grasp on what solar energy is and how it works, you probably don't know everything there is to know about it - nor just how amazing it really is. Read on and I'll show you…
Let's start with the basics. The first thing you may not realise is that the sun provides us with two types of energy which can both be considered 'solar' energy. One is heat (solar thermal), and the other is light (solar voltaic). It's light energy from the sun that most of us are interested in and that most solar panels use as it is a more efficient source of power.
Solar voltaic power works by using electrons that have been arranged into a particular pattern. This arrangement is such that when those electrons are hit by light, they will then be 'excited' and will start to move as a current. This is the current we then harness and transform in order to power lights, computers and more.
The Power of the Sun:
The important role of the sun is something that we shouldn't underestimate and it's not just light and heat that it provides us with. Of course the sun is what holds the Earth in orbit, but it's also what provided us with the basic elements necessary for life. Well - actually it wasn't our sun that provided us with most of those elements. Our sun produces a lot of helium, but it actually requires a star to die and collapse for there to be enough energy to create elements like, say, carbon. Which means that your actual body was original created in the heart of a dying star and then travelled through space to Earth. Which is amazing…
Also amazing is to think that actually most forms of energy on Earth came from the sun originally - the only difference is the degrees of separation. Fossil fuels for instance simply contain energy that was created by photosynthesis from the sun, geothermal energy comes from where the ground has been heated by the sun, wind energy is possible thanks to air pressure changes caused by the sun and the geothermal energy… only tidal energy is really any different which is formed by the moon's gravity.
The sun provides us with all our energy, and the stars gave us the elements that make up our planet. So of course it makes sense to go directly to the source for our most efficient energy solutions.
The Nature of Light:
What's also amazing though is the nature of light itself. Famously, light behaves as both a wave and a particle which is what gave us the basis for quantum physics and is something we still don't entirely understand. Furthermore, light can travel indefinitely with no medium to travel 'through' which is what allows it to reach Earth from the sun and the stars. And if nothing gets in the way of the light's path then it will travel endlessly out into space - eventually spreading out into single photons that may well travel for the entire lifespan of the universe itself.
About the Author: This post is contributed by Gemma Hastings. She is a solar power expert and works with www.solarpanelgrants.org. She promotes her opinions and ideas on living an eco-friendly lifestyle through her writings.