Solar power at your fingertips

01 March 2018 | Energy

Solar energy is the energy we get from the sun. The sun has been producing energy for billions of years. It is a completely free, renewable source that uses the energy from the sun to light businesses and homes, heat water and generate electricity.

One of the main benefits of solar energy is that it is environmentally friendly and is one of the cleaner energy sources.

Here we take a look at why solar energy is becoming more popular.

• The sun is the most abundant source of energy available. The sunlight we receive for just an hour is enough to generate energy for one year for the whole world. Although the Earth receives around 173 petawatts (one petawatt = one billion millions watts) of energy continuously, we are able to harness only 0.0001% of this amount. The solar energy we get is around 10 000 times greater than what we actually use on Earth.

• The energy we get from the sun is renewable, meaning that it occurs naturally and can be replenished over time. Unlike other energy sources, like coal and oil, the sun is here to stay. Solar energy is an ever-existing resource which can be utilized all around the world, assuming that the proper technology is present in the particular region.

• Solar energy needs to be transformed to solar power before it can be used for heating or electricity. There are two main methods to convert solar energy to power: Direct or photovoltaic (PV), or indirect or solar thermal. PV conversion is done through solar panels and the generated power is used for electricity, while the indirect conversion is done through solar thermal collectors and the generated power is used for heating.

• The production and use of solar energy presents very few hazards, if any at all. Risks which are generally associated with other energy sources like explosion, fire or chemical leaks, are non- existent in this case. PV panels are mainly made from silicon, which means that there is no danger from any leakage of toxins or fumes. This makes solar energy the safest source for the generation of power.

• Since there are no running parts in the solar panels, there is very little wear and tear. This is why the maintenance requirements for the solar energy systems are very low and they can last for many years. On top of the low maintenance, there are no running costs during the production of solar energy. Once the system has been installed, the generation of power is free for the entire lifespan of the system.

• One of the best things about solar energy is that there are no carbon dioxide or other emissions affecting the atmosphere. There are almost no toxins released in the environment while we use solar energy for meeting our energy needs.

• Solar energy is particularly suitable for remote areas that do not have access to a power grid. There are around one billion people in the world living in areas without access to electricity. Independent solar systems could be installed in those regions and improve the lives of a great amount of people. Moreover, installing solar systems could also have a positive effect on the local employment.

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