Solar energy is definitely going towards a utopian future. Population can become a gloomy memory of the past as solar energy sources are spreading across the world.
There is tremendous cost savings that can be enjoyed by using solar water heating systems. Solar energy is used to heat water. That water is thereafter used for dishwashing, bathing, clothes washing and so on. Solar water heating is just like passive solar heating used to induce some heat into buildings. In America, alone there are already more than a million households using solar energy to heat water, and the numbers are growing rapidly.
The most intricate part of solar energy is the potential to produce electricity. There are two ways that solar energy can be converted to electricity; through solar thermal systems and photovoltaic.
The term photovoltaic has been derived from the term photo which does imply volt and light which are measures of electricity. A common abbreviation for photovoltaic cells are PV cells. There are others who simply refer PV cells as solar cells. This is a state of technology that is ubiquitous, it is found in calculators, solar-powered toys and much more where the solar cells use the radiates from sunlight to produce electricity.
The prime material for conventional photovoltaic solar cells is silicon. Nowadays, silicon is known as the second most common matter on the earth. The interesting part is that solar cells can generate electricity to anything that uses electricity-powered batteries.
The electricity is generated as soon as the sunlight hits the solar cells, leading to movement of electrons. The movement of the electrons creates the electric current. It is a remarkable technology, the sunlight is converted into electricity instantly and silently. No mechanical parts are affected and subject to wear and tear in the process of producing the electricity. However, there are very few photovoltaic plants today. The reason is that the price is quite high.
However, new technology such as those created by “nanosolar” represents a new era of solar cells. The price of solar energy is falling and the efficiency is equally being enhanced.
Solar Thermal Electricity
Solar thermal electricity uses solar cells in a relatively different way to create electricity. Solar thermal energy directs the light through mirror surface (solar cells) to concentrate the light at focal point where an extreme temperature is harnessed. An extremely heat liquid is formed, similarly to how coal plants function. Commonly known solar plants are found in Mojave Desert of California and Spain.
Solar energy has an unlimited potential. It can be collated in unlimited quantities and most appealingly, it is pollution-free. There is generally no means to create monopoly control of solar energy by any industry or country. The area where improvement ought to be seen is in the sphere of enhancing technology to harness solar energy.
More reading: Critical Overview of Solar Energy: Part 1
Source: Intermediate Energy Infobook