Did you know that all of the energy we use comes from the sun? You probably know that’s true for solar panels, but the sun is also the ultimate source for energy generated by wind, water, and fossil fuels. It works like this. Heat from the sun drives the air currents and water cycle that turn wind turbines and power hydroelectric dams. Meanwhile, the rays of the sun also the plants grow that ultimately become wood, coal, and gas. What if we could cut out the middleman to open the most direct path between the sun and the energy we use every day? Let’s take a step back so we can understand the real power and potential of the sun.
The sun is a massive, flaming sphere of gases, 330 thousand times more massive than Earth. At its core, the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is 60 thousand times the temperature of your oven when you bake a pizza! The sun gives off LOTS of energy into space as heat and light, called solar energy. If we could capture all of the solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface, we could continuously run a 25-inch television on every square meter of Earth – and still have energy some left over! Right now, we aren’t using all this energy — instead, we mostly rely on coal, oil, natural gas, and other sources. But these sources aren’t renewable, which means they’ll eventually run out. In fact, if we keep using these non-renewable resources at the rate we are now, we may run out of oil and gas in the next 50 or so years and coal in the next 115 years.
Not only are these non-renewable resources going to run out, they’re also polluting our planet and contributing to climate change. The sun’s energy, on the other hand, will not “run out” for the next 5 billion years. That makes it a renewable resource. Other renewable resources like wind and water can also provide us with energy. But even all the energy we can get from all these sources added together is still less than 1 percent of the solar energy reaching Earth!! It’s clear that the potential of solar energy massively outshines its competitors. How exactly do we harness solar energy? Solar panels directly convert sunlight into usable electricity using special materials, like silicon. Another way to harness solar energy is through a process called concentrated solar power, which uses thousands of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a tower. The heat captured in the tower makes steam that flows through a steam turbine, which generates electricity.
But even though we have these promising technologies to capture solar energy, there are still many challenges with using solar energy on a large scale. For example, the amount of solar energy we can harness can change based on place and time. Some parts of the world get much more sun than others — solar panels in the Sahara desert will produce more energy than those in Seattle. But even in the sunniest places, the sunlight still isn’t constant. The changing of seasons, the cycle from day to night, and even clouds in the sky can reduce the amount of available energy.
To make solar energy usable when and where it’s less available, we need to improve energy storage and transmission systems. Above all, we also need to make solar technologies more efficient and less expensive. Currently, less than 1% of all the energy produced and used in the United States comes from solar energy. But as more researchers, private citizens, entrepreneurs, and government agencies are recognizing its amazing potential, we’re moving closer to a solar-powered society every day. The more we advance our use of solar energy, the brighter our future can be! .
As found on Youtube