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Solar Energy

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Solar Energy

Solar energy is radiant energy produced by the sun. It's generated two different ways; photovoltaic-sunlight goes directly onto the solar panels and powers and heats places like homes and pools or solar power plants heat a fluid, which creates steam, which powers the generator, which conducts electricity. It is a renewable resource and is generated all over the world-some places more abundant than others. Although it is unknown to many the efficiency and effectiveness of this energy source, it helps the environment and, in my opinion, should be used more frequently throughout the world.

The Greeks were the first to use solar energy. They would face their houses towards the sun to capture the heat it provides. In 1861 Auguste Mouchout was the first to run a steam powered engine powered completely by the sun. This was the beginning of solar power plants in a much simpler form. He filled a large pot with water and put a glass cover over the top. Sunlight passed through the glass then heating the water and producing very little steam. He added a reflector to the cover and increased the amount of steam. This steam given off was used to power a small engine, therefore creating the first solar powered machine. Emperor Napoleon III was very intrigued by this new invention and offered financial help to improve and refine his machine. This was the beginning of solar energy.

From that one first machine, there are now 15 solar power plants being currently used in the United States. Photovoltaic, or solar panels, are being used mostly for heating homes, pools, buildings, etc. The effectiveness depends on time of day, location, time of year, and weather conditions so they are used mostly in the Southwest because there is often a very abundant source of sunlight there where a lot of energy is created. Solar energy cannot be transported meaning it is used wherever it is generated. Buildings are being newly made with eco-friendly designs for capturing photovoltaic rays and transitioning them into energy. These will also feature ways to better capture the energy. There is more solar power generated in one second than all that has been used since the beginning of time.

Although solar energy is very good for the economy and environment, it has a downside as well-the price. For small machines like computers and lights solar power systems cost from $700-$1,000. Larger things like houses or pools cost between $16,000 and $20,000 depending on the amount of electricity you use, the specific solar system you choose and how much sunshine you get in that area. Even though the systems themselves are very expensive, if you have the correct conditions they pay for themselves within 20-25 years. Some of the reasons they are so expensive is because the government wont let you install them yourself and because there is very little competition.

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