Solar Energy & Solar Power Facts
For those who support the principles behind renewable energy, here is a list of solar energy and solar power facts which is nice to have handy.
As a matter of fact, the next time somebody questions you about the viability of solar energy, arm yourself with some of these solar energy facts. After all, there’s nothing better than access to a large warehouse of useful information, especially when considering this planet’s energy future. I’m also sprinkling some nice solar quotes throughout the article.
“Solar power is the last energy resource that isn’t owned yet — nobody taxes the sun yet.”
To get started on solar energy, here are three books concerning solar energy, its history, its future, and how it is being used:
- Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story Of Solar Energy, by John Perlin – Few people realize the first photovoltaic array appeared on a New York City rooftop in 1884, or that brilliant engineers in France were using solar power in the 1860s to run steam engines, or that in 1901 an ostrich farmer in Southern California used a single solar engine to irrigate three hundred acres of citrus trees. This history of solar energy is a great place to build a foundation.
- The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy, by Lester R. Brown – To understand changes taking place in the energy industry, start here. The old economy, fueled by oil, natural gas, and coal is being replaced with one powered by wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
- Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy-and Our Planet-from Dirty Energy, by Danny Kennedy – Get a handle on one of the building blocks to distributed energy. The production of solar-generated electricity has risen exponentially in the last few years, and employment in the solar industry has doubled since 2009.
“I ride my bike for transportation a great deal — occasionally I ride it for fun. But I also have a generator bike that’s hooked up to my solar battery pack, so if I ride 15 minutes hard on my bike, that’s enough energy to toast toast, or power my computer.”
-Ed Begley, Jr.
The facts and figures about solar energy which follow are worth knowing. Here’s why: Our sun has produced energy for billions of years. It is not only one of the most important sources of energy for life on this planet; the energy it provides is renewable, unlike fossil fuels, which have been used as our energy standard.
Solar Energy Facts
- Solar energy produces no pollutants and is one of the cleanest sources of energy.
- It is a renewable source of energy. Estimates calculate our sun is 4.6 billion years old, and will continue burning its hydrogen fuel for another 5 billion years. That seems to be pretty renewable.
- Solar energy is an abundant free source of energy.
- Although the sun is 90 million miles from the earth, it takes less than 10 minutes for light to travel from that much of distance.
- Solar energy is composed of radiant heat and light, or photons.
- Photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors are examples of active solar technology.
- Passive solar technology includes constructing rooms to improve air circulation, orienting space or structures to favorably use sunlight.
- The earth gets 174 Petawatts of incoming solar radiation in the upper atmosphere. About 30% is reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed by oceans, clouds and land masses.
- By means of photosynthesis, solar energy is converted by green plants into chemical energy which creates the bio mass that makes up the fossil fuel.
- Solar energy can also be used for making potable water. Without using electricity or chemicals, waste water can be treated.
- Solar energy, in the form of photons, or light, is converted into electricity by using photovoltaic panels (see concluding paragraphs).
- Large beams of sunlight can be focused into a small beam using mirrors or lenses to create concentrated solar power, or CSP.
- Thermal storage systems can store solar energy in the form of heat by using common materials with high specific heat such as stone, earth and water.
- Solar energy can also be stored in molten salts.
- Space missions by various countries use solar energy to power spacecraft.
- The Earth receives about 1,366 watts of direct solar radiation per square meter.
- The largest solar power plant in the world is located in the Mojave Desert in California, covering 1,000 acres.
- Solar panels require little maintenance.
- A home solar panel system consists of several solar panels, an inverter, a battery, a charge regulator, wiring, and support materials. Sunlight is absorbed by the solar panels and is converted to electricity by the installed system. The battery stores electricity that can be used at a later time, like cloudy days or during the evening.
- By relying on battery backups, solar energy can even provide electricity on a 24/7 basis, even on cloudy days and at night.
- Solar electricity is measured in kilowatt-hours. 1 kilowatt = 1000 watts.
- Solar energy has been used since the sixth century BCE. Curved mirrors shaped from shiny metal were used to concentrate the rays of the sun for making fire. These became known as yang-suis – translating to solar igniters, or burning mirrors.
Give much credit to Albert Einstein for understanding the relationship between light and electricity from the sun in the form of photons.
Historian John Perlin said this about the public reaction to Einstein’s photoelectric discovery:
“Even after proving the validity of Einstein’s light quanta equation in explaining the photoelectric effect, Milliken dismissed the physicality of the photon as ‘untenable.’ In 1923, 18 years after Einstein published his light quanta piece, American physicist Arthur Hailey Compton created a collision between a stationary electron and a short wave of light. Just as in billiards, when the cue ball strikes its target, the light wave transferred some of its energy and momentum to the electron… After the Compton Experiment, the reality of Einstein’s photon and the photovoltaic effect gained universal acceptance in the scientific community.”
Hope you enjoy these solar energy facts.
“We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun, you don’t have to do anything, it just works. It shows up every day.”
–Elon Musk, CEO Tesla Motors
Image: Sunshine on beautiful landscape via Shutterstock