The sun is the most abundant source of energy in the world. It's free, renewable and clean, making it an ideal fuel to use for heating homes, powering cars and generating electricity. We've used solar energy for thousands of years in one form or another: from Greek mythology's Helios driving his chariot across the sky with a fiery whip on his back, to today's solar panels integrated into millions of rooftops around the world. But despite its vast potential, solar isn't always considered mainstream when talking about our future sources of power. Despite this, solar energy is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more about its benefits.
What is Solar Energy?
Solar panels use photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into direct current electricity through a process called "photoelectric effect." These cells consist of two layers: an upper layer made from silicon or another semiconductor material; and a lower layer with intrinsic defects called p-n junctions (p stands for positive charge while n stands for negative charge). When photons hit these materials they knock electrons loose from their orbitals causing them to flow freely through conductive pathways within the cell structure--creating electricity!
Who's using it and why?
The cost of installing solar panels has decreased dramatically over the past few years, making it easier for homeowners to afford them and saving them thousands of dollars each year on electricity bills! Solar energy is clean, renewable and sustainable, meaning that it will never run out!
Solar energy doesn't just benefit homeowners; businesses are also seeing benefits from switching over to this renewable source of power as well. For example: Walmart stores across California have installed rooftop panels that generate enough electricity each year to power over 100 homes--and they're expecting even more savings as technology advances further into the future!
The Los Angeles City Council has made a significant move by voting to install solar panels over the 370-mile Los Angeles Aqueduct. As a gravity-fed watercourse, the aqueduct provides a crucial water supply from the Owens River. While the panels will help prevent water evaporation, their primary goal is to harness the abundant sunlight in the area and produce clean energy, which is a crucial step towards sustainability.
The drawbacks & New solutions
Solar energy is typically stored in a battery for use at night or when it's cloudy. Unfortunately, the batteries that have been created so far are inefficient and can only capture a limited amount of energy throughout the period of sun exposure.
A new type of battery prototype has been created which shows great storage potential and would transform solar technology, making it viable in all climates. You can learn more about this exciting new technology here.
While solar panels do not produce emissions while generating electricity, the processes used to produce and transport materials can generate significant carbon dioxide emissions. However, when compared to oil and gas emissions, Solar energy is still a favorable alternative. Solar energy doesn't produce any waste products while generating electricity such as ash or slag (the byproducts of coal mining), which makes it a (mostly) sustainable source of power that won't run out anytime soon! Until now, recycling old solar panels has cost more than it is worth, but Australian scientists may have found a solution.
Despite some setbacks we believe solar is a viable energy alternative, that is part of a brighter future, and we are seeing more people embrace it every day. The technology is improving rapidly and becoming more affordable at the same time. It is clean, affordable and becoming widespread--it's hard not to see that this resource will benefit our planet in many ways over time! Contact us today with any questions you have regarding this emerging tech.