How Solar Power Makes a Difference

Solar power is one of those phrases you hear a lot of these days. But what is solar power, and how does it benefit you to use it? While the term "solar power" is often used interchangeably with the term "solar energy," solar power refers specifically to the converting solar energy into electricity. How can it be stored so that it can be used at night, or during adverse conditions?

 In a nutshell, solar power is created one of two ways: Active solar techonolgies work by "collecting" solar energy. Sunlight shines on special panels, called solar panels, that transform the light into DC electricity. This electricity is converted to AC power and is either used in your home during the day, stored in a thermal storage system, or fed into the local utility grid. At night, electricity is drawn from either the storage system or the grid for use in your home. Passive solar technologies include things like designing a building relative to the way it faces the Sun, and the use of solar design packages, which tie together solar lighting, heating, and ventilation systems forming a complete residential solar power system.

Active solar technology can boost the effectiveness of these passive systems. Thermal storage systems use materials with high specific heat capacities, like water, stone, and earth, which are generally readily available. Solar energy advantages include energy and money savings, less reliance on conventional power systems which can be at the mercy of varying weather conditions, especially during the storm season and external influences over which we have no control. Another advantage which is quite important is the fact that solar power energy is a totally clean power source producing no harmful emissions.

One of the earliest major scientific applications of solar power was on commercial satellites. Solar power is not, however, a new idea. The ancients used systems of lenses and mirrors to concentrate solar energy for various purposes. Due to natural and economic fluctuations in the supply of oil, natural gas, and other resources, the call for solar power is increasing rapidly, and is likely to continue to do so as technologies develop that make harnessing it and using it more viable and less expensive. Read more

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