Solar energy is energy that is derived from the suns rays. The light and the heat provided by the sun is “collected” or harnessed by solar panels and then converted into a more useful form of energy. There are two main forms of solar energy – passive solar energy and active solar energy. When most people ask, “What is solar energy?” they usually only think about active solar energy. That is a mistake…
Passive Solar Energy
Passive solar energy is solar power in its most archaic and practical form. Basically, the suns energy is being used as is for lighting or heating purposes. For example, using a solar blanket to heat a pool or using solar panels to redirect light onto an agricultural crop would both be examples of passive solar energy.
Active Solar Energy
On the other hand, active solar energy uses photovoltaic technology. The main purpose of photovoltaics is to harness the energy from the sun and then use special semiconductors to convert it to usable direct current energy. Large solar farms and solar panels on top of peoples homes used for energy generation are examples of active solar energy. When people ask, “What is solar energy?” this is what they usually think of.
Solar energy can be used in quite a few different ways. Most people think that all solar energy is directly converted into electricity and fed into the power grid, but that’s just not the case. Solar energy can be used to heat various substances, it can be redirected to maximize the growth of plants, and it can be used for natural lighting purposes so electricity can be saved. But, a small and growing portion is used for traditional energy production, and it will continue to make up a larger portion in the future.
One of the main benefits of solar energy is that its application isn’t geographically limited. When it comes to other renewable sources of energy like wind turbines, there are very few viable locations where a large amount of these can be built. But, solar energy panels can be placed almost anywhere and on almost any scale. From a few smaller solar panels on the roof of a home in suburbia to a massive solar farm in the desert, solar energy can be harnessed almost anywhere.
In the end, solar energy will be one of the main sources of renewable energy in the future that we must harness. There are no limits in terms of its application and it is incredibly reliable and cost effective. There are many potential solutions to the world’s energy problems, but solar energy seems to be the solution that shows the most promise! So, when someone asks, “What is solar energy?” the answer is – the solution to our renewable energy problem!