Solar Power Guide: A Crucial Energy Source for the Modern World

With the threat of climate change, radical success of past environmental actions, and the desire for creating a better world, green energy has come a long way in recent years. Whether coming at it from the scientist point of view or the environmentalist point of view, solar power is going to be a major part of that push.

If not the main one. The sun gives off an incredible amount of energy every single day and solar technology can be used to create massive amounts of energy without having any adverse impact on the environment. Modern solar cells are more powerful and efficient than ever and as more investment goes into the technology it is only going to continue to get better.

Whether on a large scale to power a city or house, or on a small scale to create public phone chargers or on a backpack to help charge your electronics while walking around, the cost is more affordable than it has ever been before.

History of Solar Power

Technically, solar power has existed since before man, and certainly since the very beginning of organized human history. Most very early tribal cultures worshipped the sun and many of the first ideas of deities or gods started with sun worship and moved from then.

For hunters and gatherers and even the earliest farmers, it was easy to see why the sun was so highly regarded. Light and heat were beneficial and important, and as civilization began to form every little detail of the first villages focused on getting the most of the natural energy the sun provided.

How so? Early solar power would lead to buildings being built in a direction and style to be lit by natural sunlight for the maximum amount of time during the day. Farmers quickly figured out sunny fields outperformed shady ones.

Thousands of years later the use of mirrors and steam introduced a way to use the sun's energy in very basic and crude ways to create a new level of power from solar energy. While anything remotely like modern solar energy wouldn't began appearing until the middle of the 20th century, this was the start of solar energy's next revolution.

The reason 1950 is often seen as a big breakthrough year is because of experiments by Bell Laboratories creating a very interesting discovery: that silicon had remarkable potential in being able to both absorb and conduct solar radiation. In layman's terms that meant silicon could use sunlight to gather and pass on energy directly from the sun's light.

This discovery by three scientists opened up the possibility that sunlight could be conceivably converted into working electricity through smart use of silicon if research was put into developing such a system.

This didn't catch too much footing until the 1970's when the oil trade wars and world-wide energy crisis suddenly made alternative energy not only appealing, but a necessity. Early solar cells were hardly efficient, but they began to get produced, manufacturing and research ramped up, and the seeds were at least first planted for modern solar technology.

Understanding How a Solar Cell Works

Solar cells are the backbone of modern solar power. While there are technically some other ways, by far and away solar cells are the most efficient and most common tool used. These are flat rectangular objects that are normally made of silicon and covered by glass.

This allows them to capture focused sunlight through the glass which then can be stored, used, or pushed forward. The process of going from light radiation to actual usable electricity is called photovoltaics.

For a single house there's likely just one battery to collect and store solar energy that can then be called upon when there isn't direct sunlight like at night or multiple rainy days. On a large scale, many solar batteries will be together to store massive amounts of electricity and send it out to the grids where they are needed.

The Concentrated Solar Power Method

This is the other method of gathering solar power that isn't nearly as common as solar panels but it is still sometimes used out there. Called "Concentrated Solar Power" this method uses lenses and mirrors to focus heat onto an engine that is powered by heat like a steam engine.

This results in generation of electricity usually through a turbine. This can be used in really large solar plants that have massive amounts of space to use. You won't ever see this on a small-scale domestic setup.

Explosive Growth of Solar Energy Use

Many nations use solar energy both as an available option for individual homes as well as on a large scale for producing power. Green energy is certainly the future and the explosion of large solar farms has affected many nations. China is the largest producer of solar energy in the world followed by the United States, Japan, and Germany.

Many advanced technological nations like Italy, the UK, and Australia and making the switch as well as rapidly developing nations who are seeing the damage that fossil fuels can cause which is why India is also high on this list. It seems that pressure groups are finally getting through to politicians about investing more in Renewable Energy Resources.

Understanding Solar Panels

The cost of solar energy varies a lot. Depending on location, efficiency of system, tax credits or rebates, season and weather, solar panels can be extremely efficient in some areas or a bit expensive in others For great deals on solar panels in your area check

A full domestic solar refit can be anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000 up front depending on scale, local infrastructure, and needs. This is up front cost and does not look at rebates, local tax credits, or other benefits or sales that can bring that number down.

Right now they last an average of 30 years or more and in many places those with solar panels who create enough to run their homes have no electric bill or virtually none, and in some cases can even sell the energy at a discount back to the power company that then uses that inexpensive power to meet their demand, giving a profit to everyone involved.

Looking at the Pros & Cons

There are undeniably both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to using solar power.

Among the Pros:

  • The sun is going to keep coming up, so the power source is always there
  • Green energy that doesn't create greenhouse gasses
  • This is a renewable resource meaning it doesn't eat up limited resources
  • Lasts up to 30 years before needing replacement
  • No pollution
  • No noisy generators

Among the Cons:

  • Solar systems can struggle in very rainy and cloudy areas
  • Can't be used for long stretches by pole areas where it's dark a good chunk of the year
  • Better as a compliment in many areas
  • Still too expensive for many homeowners to afford
  • Developing nations often don't have resources, funds, or technology to create reliable solar grid

While the disadvantages definitely need to be taken into account, it is important to note that the pros overall definitely outweigh the cons and as the technology continues to get more effective, efficient, and inexpensive, its benefits are only going to continue to grow. However, for many people the current list of cons means some are still going to struggle to enjoy these advantages.

Solar Is Everywhere

Solar isn't just for buildings any more. There are solar vehicles that run off electricity gathered from panels and stored in the battery. They can power cars, boats, and small solar panels are even found on backpacks that can be connected to chargers to help power up laptops, phones, and other devices.

They can be very small, large, and are used through a wide variety of circumstances. As they become more flexible, they will pop up in more places. There are designs for laptops and cellphones with a small solar strip built in so they automatically charge up while in sunlight.

The Future of Solar Power

While solar power has been developed in its modern form for nearly 70 years now, it's actually still in its infancy. The advent of the Portable Solar Unit is just one example. In many of those years it wasn't heavily invested in, many corporations refused to invest, and because of that development of the technology has gone much slower than it otherwise would have.

There are also some old stereotypes about solar that aren't true and those need to be overcome in order to further push the benefits of what it has to offer.

Green energy is the future and since solar power has a theoretically infinite supply as long as the sun is shining, that means development will become more thorough, more money will be invested, and more and better tools produced to make solar energy even more attractive than it already is.

In fact, many companies and individuals are working on solar cells and batteries that can take on specific challenges like functioning effectively in heavily rainy areas or in areas like Alaska where winters can be anywhere from 20-24 hours of darkness for months on end. As the research continues, it will continue to just get better and better!