Every modern home requires energy. Most often energy comes from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas. However, fossil fuels are not available in unlimited quantities. These fuels were made millions of years ago and do not replenish as fast as they are used. This is one of the reasons why the consumer’s cost for energy continues to rise. The use of these non-renewable fuels also has a negative impact on the environment, contributing to the release of greenhouse gas and global warming. In efforts to save money by reducing their energy bills and help the environment, people are turning to alternative energy. Solar energy is a common and increasingly popular option. In homes, this green energy option often comes in the form of solar panels which typically are attached to the roof where they collect the sun’s energy. Although solar panels are generally the most widely recognized symbol of solar power, there is more to learn about this natural and alternative source of power.
Basics of Solar Power
To understand solar power a person must first understand what it is. Basically solar power is sun power. It is energy that comes from the sun’s daily light and heat emissions. Because the sun’s power will never deplete, solar power is also considered a renewable power source. Technology converts the energy from the sun into an energy that can be used for everyday purposes. It can be harnessed in several different ways. Passive solar technology and concentrating solar power both harness the sun’s heat. Solar photovoltaic technology, such as solar cells and solar panels, convert the sun’s light into electricity.
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Solar Energy Basics
- Solar Power Basics for Residential Customers (PDF)
- The Science of Solar: Solar Energy – The Basics (PDF)
- National Geographic: Solar Energy
- Basics of Solar Energy
- Solar Energy: Resources and Technology
Benefits of Solar Power
Solar power comes with numerous benefits that are superior to other power sources. While some may be concerned about negative aspects of solar energy, such as being limited to daytime or sunny days, the advantages far outweigh any concerns. One of the benefits of solar power is that it is a renewable energy source. That means, unlike other sources of energy there is no risk that the world’s supply of it will lessen or become unstable. Another major benefit of solar is that it is energy-efficient and saves consumers money over time. The amount of money that will be saved in electric bills eventually offsets the cost of installation. Solar power is available for everyone, even people who live in remote locations and do not generally have access to electricity.
- Benefits of Solar Energy
- WBU Lubbock: Benefits of Solar Power Newsletter(PDF)
- Alternative Energy: Solar Power – Advantages of Solar
- University of Bristol School of Chemistry: Advantages of Solar Energy
- Energy Matter: Solar Power – Advantages and Disadvantages
Solar energy has a number of useful, money-saving applications in the home. It may be used to heat water that is then used for cleaning dishes, taking showers, etc. This is accomplished by replacing a traditional water heater with a solar water heater. Some of the more advanced solar heaters can fulfill up to ninety percent of a family’s hot water needs. A home with solar panels has the ability to use the power of the sun to provide electricity. Solar electricity can be applied to any household item that relies on electricity as a power source, such as televisions, lighting, computers, and appliances. Solar power may also be used for powering outdoor lights, such as walkway or garden lights.
- Energy.gov: Renewable Energy
- Powering Your Home With Solar Energy (PDF)
- Practical Uses of Solar Energy (PDF)
- How it Works – Solar Water Heater
- Solar Powered Outdoor Lights
- Solar Energy Calculator
Solar Power and the Environment
Unlike other forms of energy, the use of solar power does not harm the environment in any way. It does not cause acid rain or contribute to global warming. Because its source is the sun, there’s no air pollution or water pollution as a result of its production or use. It also does not damage the earth the way that fossil fuel extraction does. Large solar power systems can, however, encroach upon open land. This is one of the few genuinely negative sides of large solar power plants as it can have an unfavorable effect on the wildlife and vegetation in these areas.
- Solar Energy Development Environmental Considerations
- Solar Power: Eco-Friendly or Environmental Blight?
- Solar Energy: Active Solar Power – Environmental Impacts
- Solar Energy 101: Benefits of Solar Energy – Environmental
Kids and Solar Power
Solar power is increasingly popular across the globe. It is still, however, considered the exception rather than the norm when it comes to its widespread use in homes and businesses. For this reason it is important that children learn about solar power and its importance. By teaching children the reasons for alternative, renewable power sources, people are inspiring the future generations to make smart changes in how they get the energy that they use. When educating kids about solar energy, it is important to talk about the environment and how traditional energy methods, such as coal, negatively impact it.
- Energy Kids – Renewable Solar
- Alliant Energy Kids: Solar Power
- Solar International: Solar Answers for Younger Kids
- NASA Climate Kids: Meet the Sun Power People!
- Energy Quest – The Energy Story: Solar Energy
- A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change – Solar Energy
Solar Power Resources
- American Solar Energy Society
- How PV Cells Work
- Solar Energy Industries Association
- Energy Home – Solar Energy
- Texas Solar Energy Society
- Oregon Solar Electric Guide PDF