Solar power is energy from the Sun. The sun has been producing energy for billions of years, but it is only in the recent past that this energy is being harnessed or collected and changed into heat and electricity across the world.
The energy that comes from the rays of the Sun that reach the Earth is called solar radiation. Without humans, animals, or other living organisms needing to do anything, the energy from the Sun has given power to all living things through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis takes place when plants use the Sun's energy to make its own food, and then of course, all other living organisms eat the plants or animals receiving that energy indirectly from the Sun.
However, collecting solar power to create electricity and heat is not as easy as plants using the Sun's energy to make its own food. Some people, like an astronomer named John Herschel, used a solar thermal (heat) collector box to cook food during an expedition to Africa. The collector box is a device used to collect the heat from the Sun to cook food. This may not have been the first instance of using the Sun's energy to cook food, but it was a preview of how much energy the Sun has that can be used if collected properly.
Today, the Sun's energy is converted to thermal energy, which can be used to heat water for homes, swimming pools, greenhouses, and other buildings. It can also be used to heat the fluids to high temperatures to power turbines that make electricity. It is not as simple as placing an item in sunlight however.
Solar energy is changed into electricity in two ways. Solar cells change sunlight into electricity which are grouped into panels used in a variety of different ways. Sometimes these panels are called solar panels which collect, use and distribute the energy from the Sun. This type of collection is also used to power small cells inside batteries or calculators, but mainly used for power single homes or large power plants.
The second way solar power is used to generate electricity is by focusing the Sun's heat to a fluid that produces steam that is then used to turn a generator.
Solar power systems are very beneficial. First, they do not cause pollution or carbon dioxide. And they have very little impact on the environment. Overall as well, solar energy costs less once the equipment is in place. The energy and heat from the Sun is basically free but it costs money to build the right equipment to collect the power of the Sun.
A couple problems with solar power includes the inconsistency of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface, because the amount of sunlight will vary depending on location, time of day, year, and weather conditions. Also, since the Sun does not deliver much energy to any single place at any one time, a large surface is needed to collect the Sun's energy for it to be useful.
Even though the amount of energy reaching the surface of the Earth throughout the world is greater than the total amount of energy used or needed, the current limitations in collecting this energy will need to be overcome.
In summary, solar power is a useful source of heat and electricity for the world, but there are some obstacles to overcome before it becomes the only source of energy for the world's needs.
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