For thousands of years the sun has been considered a source of energy, both spiritual and otherwise. The Incas based their whole existence around the sun and its power, regarding the sun as the Supreme Being and the basis for their entire religion. The sun's importance to us has once again come into focus, yet, despite the abundance of solar energy available to us, only approximately 10% of that available energy is currently being used by mankind. One of several problems preventing increased usage of solar energy is having less awareness of not only utilizing it, but also the possibilities it represents as a source of sustainable power. We will attempt to address those issues here.
At the start
From the time the Earth began, the sun has been an ever-present in the formation and development of life and nature here on earth. Many people might not be aware of this, but solar energy actually is the source of many natural phenomena, such as waves and wind. The sun's energy has been utilized throughout the centuries to provide heat, sustenance and power, but harnessing that energy correctly and efficiently is a major challenge and one that we are gradually coming to grips with.
Technology and the Sun
The sun produces an almost limitless amount of energy. This energy must be harnessed by technology to be converted into something that is usable by mankind. There are 2 types of solar technology you can use to accomplish this, one termed as passive, the other active. How we differentiate between the two depends on how the direct sunlight is harnessed and subsequently used.
Active solar technologies trap solar energy and then perform some sort of action to improve the collection, storage, or distribution of that energy. The usage of solar (photovoltaic) panels is a reasonably well-known example of active solar technology. Passive solar technologies simply trap solar energy – a greenhouse is among passive solar technology.
Electricity from the Sun
We all have been familiar with the term "solar panel"; solar panels convert the solar energy into actual electrical current through what is recognized as the photovoltaic effect. The energy produced by solar panels can then be employed to power small appliances, an entire house or business, and, maybe, in the foreseeable future, entire cities. We have the technology – applying it and putting it to everyday use is another matter.
Dilemma, Solution, and Economics.
The main concerns most of us have so far as getting started using solar energy are, usually in this order, cost and the availability of solar energy at night.
The first concern, cost, is an extremely valid concern as a result of initial cost of installing a solar energy system. However, those costs can be offset by substantial rebates currently available from both the us government and many State governments, of which many people are unaware when they first begin investigating the potential for using solar energy. Also, the price tag on solar equipment is gradually decreasing as the technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated. Further discussion of cost is beyond the scope of this document; however it is not the show-stopper most people still find it.
The second, availability of solar energy, can be resolved by either using a battery to store excess energy or with the excess energy created in daytime and stored on your utility's grid. Again, a valid concern, but one that will be addressed relatively easily.
Today, with the rising costs of electricity, volatile oil prices, and the rapidly decreasing availability of fossil fuels in general, people are becoming a lot more interested in looking at alternative sources of energy, and solar energy in particular. As stated above, solar technology equipment is becoming increasingly less expensive to manufacture, so the initial cost is becoming a lot more affordable. But, probably most importantly, the long-term savings for the consumer and the environment will be life-changing once solar energy is adopted broadly.
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