11 Interesting Facts about Solar Energy You Should Know
Sun is a brilliant star shining from 4.6 billion years. But it was only a few decades ago, that humans were able to capture the benefits of this non-polluting renewable source. With the rising dangers of global warming and environment, harnessing solar energy has become vital for human existence.
With rising fossil fuel consumption, the non-renewable energy sources are depleting at an alarming rate. Solar being an abundant source of energy is one of the brilliant alternatives available today.
Sunlight is virtually necessary for all the processes occurring on our planet. From generating winds, transpiration in plants to producing electrical energy through solar panels, sunlight is harnessed both naturally and artificially.
It is no doubt that solar energy is useful, but still we have a long way to go before we efficiently harness this source. Constant efforts are being made by the government, scientists and various solar companies to use sunlight to fulfill our daily demand.
Here are 11 most interesting facts about solar energy that can make you realize the potential of this resource –
- Sunlight is a completely free source of energy and can be used in abundance. Solar cells absorb sunlight of a particular wavelength and convert it into electrical energy through the photovoltaic effect. Electrons present in solar panels interact with photons present in sunlight at an atomic level. The resulting effect is that it releases a loosely bound electron which is captured and utilized to generate electricity.
- Solar technology can be primarily distinguished into two categories based on their application. One is active technology which comes in the form of solar panels and solar thermal conductors. Another form is passive technology, which uses solar energy to improve air circulation and orienting space to optimize the use of sunlight.
- Sun has the major responsibility of maintaining the accurate water cycle on earth. When solar energy hits the earth, the surface water from the sea and oceans gets heated up and vaporizes to form clouds. These clouds cause rain that brings back the water to the earth’s surface completing the water cycle.
- The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 149 million kilometers. It takes sunlight about 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach earth. In a single hour, the amount of solar energy striking the earth is enough to produce energy consumed by the world in a whole year. Each hour 480 Quintilian joules of energy is received by the earth. That is 18 zeros after 480! In comparison, humans consume around 410 Quintilian joules of energy per year.
- Solar panels are mostly made up of silicon-based materials; it is the most commonly used material in domestic solar panels. The efficiency of solar panels is a measurement of the amount of sunlight a solar panel can convert into usable electricity. The highest efficiency of solar panels we have achieved is about 23%. But the average efficiency of domestic solar panels falls between the ranges of 15-18%.
- Solar energy can be used in agriculture to power various processes. This application of solar is considered a prominent one in countries like India. As India is the land of villages, reliance on solar energy can help farmers to save money and avoid pollution. Agriculture uses solar both in a natural and artificial form. Naturally, farmers time their crops based on the season and availability of light and water. Artificially, solar power can be used to pump water for irrigation crops and powering equipment. Solar technologies can provide light, heat and ventilation for livestock and farmhouses.
- The majority of solar panels are systematically connected to the electricity grid. When your panels produce excess solar energy, the energy is supplied back into the grid. When your panels produce less than the required amount of solar energy, you can draw back the energy from the power grid. This process is known as net metering.
- The boom of solar energy in the last couple of decades has given rise to another technology: Solar Batteries, that can store extra energy produced by your solar panels. Installing a solar battery in your solar panel will avoid the unnecessary task of transferring excess solar energy to the power grid. In practical terms, you store the excess energy at your home and avoid the distribution loss occurred during transmission.
- Solar panels have a minimum of 20-25 years of life cycle. There are no dynamic parts involved and hence there are no recurring costs. This doesn’t mean that they become useless after 25 years. After that solar panels can be replaced with more developed technologies thus improving efficiency. Also, the house on which a panel is mounted will receive leverage when sold in the market. Homes with solar technologies tend to receive more value than non-solar based homes.
- Researchers are trying to replicate photosynthesis artificially. This is an attempt to replace fossil fuels with solar chemicals to make solar energy portable and storable. This is done by placing a photo-anode and a counter electrode in water-filled vessel. The photo-anode absorbs the sunlight and force the water to split into hydrogen and oxygen. This process is known as photoelectrolysis. This process doesn’t involve solar cells. Technology for producing hydrogen is a major aspect of chemical solar research.
- In the case of natural havoc, solar PV system is the fastest to deploy. A functioning solar energy plant can be built in a matter of weeks. No other renewable or non-renewable facility could be deployed in such a short span of time. This ability could empower us to better prepare for the climatic havocs that may hit us in the future.
Solar energy facts in a nutshell
Sun is a continuous beaming source of energy. It is out in the open and the only limitation we have is our will power to use this ball of fire to its maximum potential. With climate change happening rapidly, the adoption to this renewable source will decide how we function as humanity. As of now only a fraction amount of energy demand is fulfilled by solar energy, but the future promises are just mind-blowing.