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What is Solar Energy?

What is Solar Energy?




The earth enjoys a lot of benefits from the sun. Apart from providing sunlight to help people as well as plants and animals grow properly, the sun also provides radiant energy for both simple and more important industrial applications. This makes it a very ideal alternative source of energy with less environmental impact. 


Did you know?

Of the total solar radiation received by the earth from the sun, 70 percent is absorbed by the clouds, oceans and land masses or approximately 3,850 zettajoules each year while 30 percent is reflected back to space. Solar radiation along with other alternative energy resources such as wind, wave and hydroelectricity comprise for more than nearly 100 percent of the available renewable energy on earth. In one year alone, the amount of solar energy reaching the earth is estimated to be twice as much as that received from the non-renewable resources such as oil, coal and natural gas combined. 

Important uses

Solar energy has many uses including generating electricity and heat for homes and buildings. 

- For use in heating homes and buildings especially during the winter season, the sun痴 heat and light are normally absorbed using thermal mass (stone, cement, water) and other features such as orientation in relation to the sun, compact proportion and selective shading. This is referred to as the passive solar architecture. Today, this is used in combination with active solar equipment including fans, pumps and switchable windows. 

- For providing light in buildings and homes, daylighting techniques are implemented. Daylighting or the passive systems collect and spread light in the interior spaces. They involve the use of specific window types, sizes and orientation as well as exterior shading devices. The more active system is known as the hybrid solar lighting (HSL) which collects sunlight through the use of mirrors and optical fibers. 

- Solar energy can also be used by water heaters to heat swimming pools and provide hot water to homes and office buildings. It is also utilized in distillation and disinfections techniques to produce potable water to humans around the world. 
Through solar distillation, saline or brackish water can be made potable. Solar water disinfection (SODIS), on the other hand, is a process that allows the exposure of water-filled plastic bottles to sunlight for several hours from a minimum of six hours to a maximum of two days. The World Health Organization recommends this as a form of treatment for household water. 

- In agriculture, it can help extend the growing season using greenhouses. With greenhouses, solar light is converted to heat allowing continuous production and growth of crops and other plants all year round. It was during the Roman period when the first greenhouses were noted. They were used to produce cucumbers for the Roman emperor Tiberius. 

- For grazing animals, solar cells or photovoltaics can be used to power pumps in order to provide water. 

- In evaporation ponds, solar energy helps hasten the harvest of salt and clean the waste streams of harmful elements that can cause contamination. 

- In experiments, it can help power ground, sea and air vehicles. 

- For simple applications, solar energy can be used in cooking, drying and pasteurization. 

Solar energy and solar panels have their advantages and disadvantages, read more about the pros and cons of solar energy, solar energy history, and the uses of solar energy for homes.  

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