How Solar Energy Works

Source: Taiwantrade | Updated: 12 August 2018

What is solar energy?

The sun has been radiating light and warmth for billions of years. Now we can take advantage of this hot plasma and use its energy for a better future. Solar energy is an important source of renewable energy because we can turn solar energy to electrical energy. Solar energy technologies harness the heat from the sun, convert the heat from thermal to electrical energy, and eventually generate usable electricity. Solar electricity generation represents a clean alternative to electricity from fossil fuels. Solar energy will enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, mitigates global warming, and keep fossil fuel prices lower. These advantages of solar energy are global.

How does solar energy work step by step?

Most solar energy applications depend on solar photovoltaic technology, which is based on a high-tech but remarkably simple technology that converts sunlight directly to electricity. Sunlight stimulates the electrons on solar panels. These electrons create direct current electricity. This electricity travels from the panels through an inverter to the circuit breaker. An inverter changes direct current electricity into usable alternating current. As long as the sun shines, the solar energy device is able to generate electricity. Even though the weather is cloudy or rainy, the solar energy device can still utilize the previously saved electricity to supply residential, industrial or commercial needs of electricity.

Photovoltaic energy is the conversion of sunlight into solar energy later to electrical energy. Photovoltaic (PV) panels and concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities capture sunlight and convert it into useful electricity. However, unlike photovoltaic systems, concentrating solar power systems (CSP) generate electricity using the sun’s heat instead of light. As the most common CSP technologies, parabolic trough and central receiver consist long, curved mirrors that concentrate sunlight on a liquid (generally oil) inside a tube that runs parallel to the mirror. Central receiver CSP facilities, or "power towers," use fields of mirrors to concentrate sunlight on the top of central towers. Although the technologies evolve and vary, the purpose remains the same—to produce cleaner energy for the environment and our future.

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