Solar Energy is a form of renewable energy derived from the Sun and is then converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is the cleanest form of energy that is available in an abundant quantity. The sunrays are converted into the usable form using many evolving technologies like photovoltaic cells, solar heating equipment, molten salt power plant, solar thermal energy and artificial photosynthesis. The sunrays carry up to 173,000 terawatts of energy on Earth which is around 10,000 times the global energy demand.
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The Sun is the leading star in the solar system that transfers constant energy in the form of radiation. Sun is mainly primarily made up of hydrogen and helium atoms. Due to higher density and temperature at the centre of the Sun, the hydrogen nuclei undergo nuclear fusion. As a result of this, two hydrogen nuclei join together to form a helium nucleus. A significant amount of heat is released in the form of radiation during the process, generating huge energy. This produced energy radiates out of the solar surface. The research and estimates show that the Sun has enough hydrogen in its core to last for another 4.5 billion years.
There are two primary ways to harness solar energy into a usable form. The technologies involved in harnessing solar energy are Photovoltaics and Solar Thermal. Let us discuss both the technologies briefly:
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Photovoltaics: Photovoltaics is a technology that has the capability to convert solar energy into electric energy directly. During the conversion process, photons of light are absorbed by the semiconductors, which releases electrons and, in turn, form electricity.
Solar panels fitted with semiconductors are installed in buildings and solar farms, which are capable of generating an enormous amount of electricity. The electric energy generated by this process can be used directly after a generation or stored in batteries. Solar panels convert solar energy into electric energy with the help of the photovoltaic effect. The rays strike on the solar cells made up of silicon, allowing electrons and electricity generation. The current generated by this process is a direct current that can further be fed into a solar inverter to convert it into an alternating current.
Solar Thermal Technology: Solar Thermal is the second way of converting solar energy into a usable form. The heat energy captured from the Sun's radiations is used for various applications. Few examples of solar thermal applications are stated below:
There are various advantages of solar energy. Let us discuss some of the most important advantages briefly:
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Solar energy has many advantages, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any disadvantages. Let us discuss some of the most important disadvantages briefly: