Whether we realize it or not, we use Solar Energy every single minute of our existence. Life as we know it would not exist without the constant energy supplied to the earth from the sun. Solar energy is needed for photosynthesis in plants, for day light and warmth for every living creature, and for various complex processes taking place on the planet. This is the natural use of energy which is freely available from the sun.
However, when we use the term ‘Solar Energy” in particular, we usually refer to the process of tapping energy from the sun and converting it to some other form of energy to power various needs. For instance, photovoltaic cells are used to convert solar energy to electricity to power homes, offices and industrial establishments. Heat is another form of energy that can be derived from the sun. Solar heaters and solar ovens convert light and radiation from the sun to heat energy in order to heat water or to cook food.
Most of the energy that powers our lives today comes from fossil fuel which is considered to be a non-renewable source. However, heat and light from the sun have been pouring towards the earth for ages, and it is not likely to exhaust anytime soon. Therefore, this is a more reliable and inexhaustible power source. As long as the sun rises every day, mankind can depend on it to tap power for various different needs.
Apart from being a non-renewable source, fossil fuels also give rise to pollution of the atmosphere. Automobiles and industrial processes that use petroleum-derived fuels give off exhaust gases that continue to pollute the environment and the atmosphere at a constantly increasing rate. With the proliferation of automobiles and the rapid industrialization of the globe, this trend is only set to increase in the future.
Solar energy on the other hand is extremely clean since it does not produce byproducts that are harmful to the environment. Especially when light and radiation from the sun are directly converted to thermal energy for heating purposes, it produces no pollution whatsoever. On the other hand, producing electricity from the sun’s power is much more expensive due to the complexity of solar cells required for the process. Solar energy is also abundant only in tropical and subtropical regions of the earth throughout the year. The arctic and polar regions receive very little sunlight and may not be able to rely on the sun for their energy needs.