Solar energy is becoming more and more prevalent every year, and nowadays almost everyone is at least vaguely familiar with the concept. As of mid-2017, the U.S. has a total solar power capacity of 47.1 gigawatts, which is enough to power 9.1 million homes, and that number has only grown since then. Solar panels have known to last more than 30 years of continuous renewable production. Clearly solar energy is more popular than ever as people continue to make the switch to renewable energy sources. But how does solar energy work? What goes into making solar panels, and what other forms of renewable technology are there?
Solar Energy: The Basics
Simply put, solar panels and solar energy systems convert the sun’s light into usable electrical energy. This form of renewable energy creates no byproducts, like the burning of fossil fuels, making a cleaner source of electricity. Additionally, since light is not a limited resource, solar energy is not in danger of becoming unavailable due to overuse.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Photovoltaic panels, more commonly known as solar panels, are one of the two main components involved in capturing solar power to use as electricity. The panels themselves rely on a variety of manufacturing processes to create, including reaction injection molding, in which two liquid components are mixed and injected into the mold where they chemically react and cure. Without today’s modern manufacturing technology, solar panels would be impractical, if not impossible, to make.
Solar panels work through a variety of complex mechanisms. Solar panels are most frequently made of silicon and phosphorous, creating a positively charged and negatively charged layer. When light hits the panels, it encourages the movement of electrons between these layers, which creates a source of energy that can be stored and used for electricity. This power usually gets stored in a battery, or it can go to directly power electrical devices. When stored, this electricity can be used to power homes, cars, electronics, and more. Using a battery to store the power gathered by the solar panels allows the electricity use to be more consistent, which can be incredibly useful in environments that don’t get consistent sunlight.
Other Eco-Friendly Tech
Solar panels aren’t the only relatively recent technological advancement that helps the environment. Other eco-friendly technologies include windmills, hydro-power energy systems, and even water treatment plants. Believe it or not, water isn’t as unlimited as a resource as many people think. Fresh water can be hard to come by, and water treatment plants are essential to ensuring people continue to have access to usable water. Around 20% of wastewater comes from agricultural operations and commercial discharge, and treating this water properly helps to protect the environment and keep water available for use.
Plenty of modern technologies that exist today help keep energy as clean as possible and ensure available resources for everyone. In the years to come, it’s likely solar panel and other eco-safe technologies will continue to advance, creating more environmentally friendly options for maintaining our current standards of living.