Solar energy is the energy that is harnessed from the radiant light and heat of the sun. For harnessing solar energy, different types of mechanism are used, such as photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, solar heating, artificial photosynthesis, solar architecture, and molten salt power plants.
As we know solar energy is a source of renewable energy. Depending on how they capture and distribute solar energy or convert it into solar power, its technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar.
- Active solar: Solar water heating, photovoltaic systems, and concentrated solar power are used to harness the energy in this technique.
- Passive solar: This technique includes designing spaces that naturally circulate air, orienting a building to the Sun, and selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light-dispersing properties.
The sun not only provides the light during the daytime but also each particle of sunlight which is called photon contains the energy and reaches the earth’s surface that fuels our planet. Solar energy is the ultimate source that is responsible for all of our energy sources and weather systems on Earth. Theoretically, What our global energy needs for almost the entire year that much energy solar radiation hits the surface of the planet each hour.
Have you ever wondered, where all this energy comes from? Our sun is just like the other star in the galaxy and it’s like a massive nuclear reactor. Deep down in the Sun’s core, due to the nuclear fusion reactions, the massive amounts of energy are produced, and that radiates outward from the Sun’s surface and further into the space in the form of heat and light.
Solar power is one of the cheapest & fastest-growing source of power in the world and it will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. As solar panel technology improves every year, the economic benefits of solar power are improving and adding environmental rights to the choice of a renewable and clean energy source.
Different Types of Harnessing solar energy for usable power
There are so many ways to use and harness the solar energy but mainly these two technologies are used :
These techniques are mostly used for small scale electricity projects like installation of the residential solar panels. It is the best way for the property owners to take the advantages of solar energy with the help of a photovoltaic (PV) solar system. In this solar photovoltaic system, solar panels are used to convert sunlight into the electricity and that can be stored in the solar battery, used immediately or you can send it to the electric grid to get credits on your electricity bill.
The photovoltaics effect is the process in which solar panels are used to convert solar energy into the usable electricity. Sunlight coming from the sun strikes on a semiconductor material (usually silicon) & it knocks electron loose and sets them in motion which generates the electric current that can be captured with the wiring. This generated current is known as Direct Current (DC) electricity and it must be converted into the Alternating Current (AC) electricity using as Solar Inverter. This conversion from DC to AC is necessary because most of our household electric appliances and the U.S. electric grid uses the AC electricity.
Using photovoltaics technique solar energy can be captured at many scales and installing solar panels is a really smart way to save money on your electricity bill. It will help you to reduce your dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels.
By installing the large solar panels that can supply energy to the electric grid or power the company operations, electric utilities and large companies can also take benefit from the photovoltaic solar energy system.
2- Solar Thermal:
Thermal solar energy is generally used for the production of large-scale solar power stations. In addition to producing electricity, lower heat variants of solar thermal projects can be used for heating and cooling.
Another way to use solar energy is to directly extract heat from solar radiation and use that heat in various ways. Thermal solar energy has a wider range of uses than light energy systems, but the use of solar energy for small-scale electricity production is not as practical as with light radiation.
Three general types of solar heat are used: low temperature, used for heating and cooling; medium temperature, used to heat water; and high temperature, used for the generation of electricity.
Low-temperature solar energy systems include heating and cooling air as a means of climate control. An example of this type of solar energy consumption is the passive design of solar buildings. In properties built for the indirect use of solar energy, the sun’s rays can enter the residential space to heat an area and close when the area needs to be cooled.
Average solar heating systems are solar thermal water heating systems. In the solar heating system, collectors take a heater from the sun on your roof. This heat is transferred to the water that flows through your home’s pipes, so you don’t have to rely on conventional water heating methods, such as oil or gas water heaters.
High-temperature solar energy systems are used to generate electricity on a larger scale. In a solar thermal power plant, the sun’s rays reflect a tube that contains a liquid that can retain heat well. You can then use this heated fluid to convert water to steam, which can then convert turbines and generate electricity. This type of technology is often called concentrated solar energy.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Solar power is one of the advantages of energy in the form of electricity. But despite the advantages of solar energy, there are also some disadvantages that should be taken into consideration.
One of the biggest disadvantages of solar energy is that the panels needed to generate electricity from solar power are large and heavy. This can create an environmental hazard if not properly installed. This is why many people recommend hiring a professional installer for solar panels.
In addition, there are many types of panels available that are custom designed for specific applications. Therefore the size of your home and the amount of sunlight it receives will determine the type of panel that you will need to purchase.
Solar panels are also best installed in areas where there is plenty of sunshine. You should keep them in areas that receive the desired percentage of the sun’s rays to prevent them from overheating and wasting energy.
The advantages of solar energy are that they are free and clean. There is no need to dispose of or buy fossil fuels that are damaging the environment.
The disadvantages of solar energy are the initial cost of purchasing and installing the system because solar energy is expensive to purchase. It may also take more time to build up a solar system than the length of time it takes to purchase one.
The other disadvantage is the power outages that may occur due to the weather conditions that are common. Since the panels have a limited number of connections, power is a limited resource.
To compensate for the disadvantages of solar energy, some people go further with renewable energy sources such as wind power. Wind power is used when the sun is not shining and can give many of the same advantages of solar energy.
These power systems can be used to heat water and have thermostats that can be programmed to turn on during times of cold weather or during the summer months. This is called solar-heated water.
Lastly, if you live in an area that gets a lot of heat from sunlight, it is possible to use solar power to heat your home. This is called solar hot water.
The advantages of solar energy are many, but the disadvantages make it less appealing. If you are trying to improve your personal energy bill by using solar energy, you may want to check into some of the disadvantages of solar power before making your decision.