The world’s energy needs are increasing each year. Even with the effects of the green movement in many industrialized nations contributing to more efficient energy use practices than ever before, we are now facing large, energy-hungry nations like China who are ramping up energy usage.
Traditionally, our electrical energy needs have been fulfilled through the use of non-renewable fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. However, these energy resources have two primary negative effects:
1. They contribute to global warming and acid rain pollution, which hurt many plants, animals and people in the environment.
2. Not every country around the world has access to these fossil fuel-based energy resources, which can be a source of political and economic instability at the global level.
The alternative, of course, is renewable energy resources like wind, water and solar power. These resources do not emit pollutants during energy production and they will never become unavailable; they offer a steady, unlimited supply through time.
What is solar energy and how do we harness it?
Solar energy can be harnessed in two primary ways:
1. Through the production of electricity using a system of solar cells that convert the sun’s energy into electricity.
2. Using solar collector devices to heat water for swimming pools, hot tubs and water heaters.
Solar energy that is converted into electricity can be used immediately to power lights or other devices, or it can be stored in batteries for use later. Solar cells created direct current (DC)-type electricity, but this electricity can be converted into alternating current (AC) using a device called an inverter.
Solar energy that is converted to heat energy for the heating of water can be used immediately or it can be stored as hot water in water tanks.
Harnessing solar power may represent one of the most hopeful and practical alternatives to the continued use of non-renewable fossil fuels.