2012 Solar Energy Facts - Fun Facts About Solar Energy
modern day person hears the term “solar energy” they often think about
solar panels that are mounted on roofs in sunny neighborhoods.
how to slash your electric bill by 75% with little out of pocket expense. Although
this is a part of solar energy, there is much more to it. The sun has been in
existence since the beginning of time, and sunlight has been captured
and used by humans in one form or another for thousands of years. Due to
the benefits of the sun, we can live a much healthier life. Sunlight
helps sustain our lives by causing plants and trees to grow through the
process of photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into organic
compounds. Sunlight also provides vitamin D, which aids our health.
There are a lot of solar energy
facts that are not only interesting, but fun to learn, and helpful
to us in our everyday lives. Read on to learn more facts
about solar energy. The following information is fun solar
energy facts for kids and adults alike.
Read on to learn more facts about solar energy. The following information is fun solar energy facts for kids and adults alike.
Interesting Facts About The Sun
- The Sun is one million times larger than the Earth
- Light travels at a speed of 186,282 miles per second.
- It takes light, 8 minutes and 19 seconds to travel 93,000,000 miles from the sun’s surface to Earth.
- The interior of the Sun is a region extremely high in temperature, being filled with dense gases. In fact the Sun's core is estimated to be approximately twenty-seven million degrees Fahrenheit. Heat and light from the Sun are produced through a process called nuclear fusion.
- Our Sun is actually a dwarf star. It is considered to be a mid-sized star compared to the billions of others throughout the universe.
- 99.99% of all the solar energy in the form of solar radiation “goes to waste”.
- In a single day, the Sun provides about 300 BTUs of heat per square foot of the Earth’s surface.
- The amount of solar energy that strikes the Earth in one hour is more than enough to provide all of the Earth’s energy needs for a complete year.
- Approximately 50% of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the Earth’s surface, while another 30% is reflected back from the Earth’s surface.
- Depending on where you are in the world, and the angle of the terrain, about 1,000 watts of solar energy reaches the Earth’s surface per hour per square meter.
- The fossil fuel we use to power our vehicles is actually a form of stored solar energy. The biomass that has been changed into oil by the Earth’s geologic activity was originally formed as a result of solar energy.
General Solar Energy Facts
- Solar Energy is healthier for the environment than traditional fossil related forms of energy.
- Solar energy has many positive uses, such as the production of electricity through photovoltaic cells, and the direct heating of water for a variety of other applications.
- Solar energy can also be used to heat swimming pools, power cars, for attic fans, calculators and other small appliances. It produces lighting for indoors and outdoors. You can even cook food with solar energy.
- Solar Energy is becoming more and more popular. The worldwide demand for Solar Energy is currently much greater than the amount we have been able to supply.
Photovoltaic Energy And Its Development
The two primary technologies used today to capture solar energy are photovoltaic and thermal. Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert light energy into electricity at the atomic level. There are some materials that exhibit a property known as the photoelectric effect. This causes them to absorb photons of light, and in turn, release electrons. When these free electrons that are released are captured, it results in an electric current, or electricity. When these solar cells are used in conjunction with each other, they form solar panel. A solar panel, otherwise known as a photovoltaic module or photovoltaic panel, is a packaged assembly of many solar or photovoltaic cells. The solar panel can then be used as a component of a larger photovoltaic system, or solar array. This is then used to generate and supply electricity for residential solar power or for commercial solar panels.
In 1839, the French physicist, Edmund Bequerel was the first to note that certain materials would produce small amounts of electric current when exposed to light. Albert Einstein was the first to describe the nature of light and the photoelectric effect in 1905. Based on this knowledge, photovoltaic technology emerged. It was for his research that Einstein later won a Nobel Prize in physics.
However, it wasn’t until 1954 that the first photovoltaic module was built by Bell Laboratories. At that time, this photovoltaic module was presented only as a solar battery, since it was too expensive to commercially produce. During the 1960s, the space industry took this new technology and applied it to provide onboard power to its spacecraft. This technology advanced as a result of its applications in the space program. Due to its space applications, the reliability of PV technology increased, and the cost began to come down. It was during the energy crisis in the 1970s that photovoltaic technology gained recognition and acceptance as a source of power for non-space applications.
Solar cells are constructed from the same type of semiconductor material that is used in the microelectronics industry. The solar cell is a thin semiconductor wafer that is specially treated to form electrical polarity. One side of the material has a positive field and on the other side has a negative field. When light energy strikes the solar cell, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms in the material. If the cell is hooked to a circuit consisting of a positive and negative lead, those free electrons are captured in the form of electrical current. That electrical current, otherwise known as electricity, can then be used to power a light or some other electrical device. As a number of these solar cells are connected to each other they form a solar module, and are held together within a mounting support frame. Most of these photovoltaic modules are designed to produce 12 volts of direct current (DC). The amount of current produced is directly proportional to the amount of light that strikes the module. A number of modules can be wired together which form an array. The more modules that form the array, the more electricity they produce. Depending on the voltage and current that is desired, they may be combined in a series string or in parallel.
The most common PV devices in use today utilize a single junction (interface) to create an electric field within the semiconductor material. With a single-junction PV cell, only photons whose energy is equal to or greater than the band gap of the cell material can free an electron for current flow.
Facts About Home Solar Energy Systems
- There are more than 10,000 homes in the U.S. alone that have solar power systems installed.
- Breaking down the cost per watt of production, solar panel systems that are tied to the grid typically cost about $3 to $4 per watt.
- Stand-alone solar systems (not attached to the grid) need full battery backup to store extra current, and cost considerably more than the grid systems.
- With a grid solar power system, any extra power produced is fed back into the grid. Power meters can actually run backwards.
- Solar panels actually increase the value of your home since they reduce your electric bill. This is like having extra money in the bank.
- There are federal and state tax incentives for those who qualify on the installation of a residential or business solar system.
Photovoltaic Solar Panel Facts
Modern day photovoltaic cells are constructed with a Thin-Film Solar Cell (TFSC) technology, also called a Thin-Film PhotoVoltaic cell (TFPV). These solar cells are made by depositing one or more thin layers (thin film) of photovoltaic material onto a substrate. The thickness of this material ranges from a few nanometers to tens of micrometers. Thin-film solar cells are usually categorized according to the photovoltaic material that is used. The following are some of the materials utilized in PV construction: Amorphous silicon (a-Si) and other thin-film silicon (TF-Si), Cadmium Telluride (CdTe), Copper indium gallium selenide (CIS or CIGS), Dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC), and other organic solar cells.
The efficiency of solar panels is still not that great. The top PV panels only have an efficiency of about 15%, meaning that only about one seventh of the solar energy that hits the panel is converted into usable electrical energy.
For each 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperature, a photovoltaic panel loses one percent of its efficiency.
A team at MIT has developed a new technique where they can actually copy solar cells onto paper and even cloth.
Until the cost of producing a solar panel is lowered to about $1 per watt of production, solar energy can’t match the cost of current energy production.
Estimates say that one square foot of solar panel gives an output of approximately 10 watts of power.
Depending on your location in relation to the equator, you may need more solar panels to accumulate the same amount of power. Location determines the length of daylight, and thus the amount of solar production that is available.
Depending on one’s location, a solar panel that is equal to one square meter in size will produce up to 1.4 Kilowatts per day of power. This amount decreases as one moves away from the equator.
Residential solar installation rates are expected to grow by 20-40% per year over the next 10 years.
It’s important to note that solar panels are the only home improvement that pays for itself.
Facts about Solar Energy usage:
- Solar Energy is measured by the kilowatt-hour. One kilowatt = 1000 watts.
- One kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy will burn a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours.
- About 30% of our total energy consumption is used to heat water.
- Sun related Facts about Solar Energy:
- A world record was set in 1990 when a solar powered aircraft flew 4060km across the USA, using only the sun’s energy for its fuel.
- Solar energy is responsible for weather patterns and ocean currents.
- Clouds, pollution and wind can prevent the sun's rays from reaching the earth.
Other Interesting Facts about Solar Energy:
- In 1447, Da Vinci predicted there would be a solar industrialization.
- The earth receives more solar energy in one hour than its entire population uses in an entire year.
- Electric ovens consume the most amount of electricity, followed by microwaves and central air conditioners.
- The fastest growing market for solar energy is in Third World Countries that have an abundance of sunlight and a population without electricity.
Solar Energy Vehicle Racing
Racing of solar powered vehicles has been conducted since 1985. Australia holds the World Solar Challenge each year. The race is 1877 miles long, traveling clear across the continent. These solar electric cars max out at 90 mph or more. There is a second solar vehicle race that happens annually is the North American Solar Challenge. Each year, the course of this race is different as is the distance.
Solar Thermal Energy
Solar Thermal Energy has been used for thousands of years. It is much easier to harness than PV energy. We all know the sun gives off heat, so solar thermal energy is simply harnessing that heat via collectors and using it to power solar-powered electricity plants, roof-mounted hot water heaters or solar pool heaters. Believe it or not, but some of the largest electrical plants in the world today create electricity through the use of solar thermal energy rather than photovoltaic solar energy.
Schott, a German based solar manufacturer estimates that solar thermal electric energy costs approximately 15 cents per kilowatt hour. This is about 150% of the cost of conventional solar electric energy. Most solar thermal power plants utilize parabolic mirror arrays to concentrate solar energy. This creates extremely high temperatures. The more concentrated the heat is, the more efficient a solar thermal electrical plant is.
Facts About Current US Energy Usage
Only 8% of all of the U.S. energy comes from alternative energy sources. Solar energy accounts for only about 1% of that energy. Geothermal makes up about 5%, while wind accounts for 9%. Of the remaining sources, hydropower supplies 35%, while biofuels is about 20% and wood at 24%. China is actually the world leader in renewable energy with the United States coming in second.
Large Solar Energy Expansions
GE is planning on building a 400 Mega-Watt solar panel factory in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, which will be the largest solar plant in the United States. They will produce enough solar panels per year to power 80,000 homes.
As of November, 2012, California regulators have licensed what is for the moment the world’s largest solar thermal power plant, a 1,000-megawatt complex called the Blythe Solar Power Project to be built in the Mojave Desert.
A lot of solar energy facts have been given in this article. Here are some questions concerning Solar Energy that should have been answered in this and related articles:
What is solar energy?
How does a photovoltaic cell work?
What is the science behind solar energy?
What is the cost of solar energy?
What is net-metering?
What is solar energy and how does it work?
What is solar PV?