Renewable Energy Review: Solar

What is it? Solar power is the conversation of energy from sunlight into electricity. This is done by either directly using photovoltaics, indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. With the exception of geothermal and hydrogen, the sun plays an essential role in most types of renewable energy. In capturing the sun’s energy directly, technology can convert this power into heat, illumination, electricity, and cooling systems. Solar power is an extremely reliable source of energy, thus providing essential energy security. It can also provide energy independence to those who purchase personal solar panels. Additionally, solar power creates a lot of jobs—between two and three times more than the coal and natural gas industries.


How is it sourced? Photovoltaic (PV) systems use solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity. This coverts light into electricity using semiconducting materials. Additionally, the sun’s heat can be concentrated by mirror-covered dishes that are focused to boil water in a conventional steam generator to product electricity.


How is it used? The application of solar power is seemingly endless. Users can install personal and commercial solar power systems in the form of rooftop equipment or field array panels. Users can also purchase solar energy generated by an offsite commercial solar installation.


Are there any downsides? When the sun sets or is heavily shaded, solar PV panels stop producing electricity. This necessitates the creation of batteries to store electricity produced by solar panels for later use. Additionally, up-front costs can be intimidating, and personal panels do not work on every type of roof. However, when it comes to environmental impact, or lack thereof, solar energy is peerless.


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