The next time somebody questions the viability of solar energy, arm yourself with these 30 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.
But before we start with that, here are three books concerning solar energy, its history, its future, and how it’s being used:
- Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story Of Solar Energy, by John Perlin – Few realize that 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.
- The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy, Lester R. Brown – 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, Danny Kennedy – 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 believe 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 traditional fossil fuels which have been used as our energy standard.
30 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.
- The only limitation to solar energy is it cannot be used at night.
- How much energy is delivered depends on the amount of sunlight received, based on location, time of day, time of year, and weather conditions.
- 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.
- Solar technology can be distinguished into active and passive.
- 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.
- The earth, oceans and atmosphere absorb solar radiation and their temperature rises. Warm air rises from the oceans causing convection. When this air rises to high altitudes, clouds are created by condensation of water vapor. These clouds cause rains that bring water back to the earth’s surface which completes the water cycle.
- 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.
- Food can be cooked, dried or pasteurized using solar energy.
- 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.
- With ongoing advancements in scientific research, solar energy will be more affordable in future with decreasing costs and increasing efficiency.
- 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.
- Once solar panels are installed, there are no recurring costs.
- 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.
- Initial cost is one the primary reasons why solar energy is not still not used by many people all over the world.
- 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.”
Now you’ve gone through 30 solar energy facts. There are many more. Send them in and I’ll gladly publish. In the meantime, read, read, and read. Be armed with information and practice.
Image: Sunshine on beautiful landscape via Shutterstock