Solar Energy

Nearly all the energy on Earth comes from the sun. Plants and algae use sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce sugar. Energy from the sun heats the oceans, causing wind and precipitation. Even fossil fuels get their energy from the sun. That’s because fossil fuels are made of ancient plant material that has been buried underground for millions of years. Over time, the solar energy that was stored in those plants is converted into hydrocarbons.

Since every form of energy on Earth ultimately comes from the sun, it makes sense that going directly to the source would be an efficient way to supply our energy needs. Solar energy technology is one of the fastest growing forms of renewable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy is putting significant funding into its solar energy research project, called the Solar Energy Technologies Program. The goal of this program is to have solar energy available to consumers by 2015.

Research and development is currently being done on two forms of solar energy. The first form of solar energy is generated by something called a photovoltaic device. When most people think of solar energy, they are thinking about photovoltaic devices. Photovoltaic devices are made of a collection of semiconductor cells which convert the light of the sun into electricity. These small cells are then linked together to produce large quantities of electricity.

The second form of solar energy is called concentrating solar power (CSP). This type of solar energy uses large arrays of parabolic mirrors to reflect and concentrate the sun’s light onto a receiver. Inside the receiver is a fluid which is boiled by the collected sunlight, and the steam pressure from the boiling liquid is used to spin a turbine, creating electricity. Currently, CSP systems are capable of producing 80 megawatts of energy.

Although both forms of solar energy have shown promise, solar energy technology is still in the research and development stage. The concept of turning sunlight into electricity has been proven, but there are still several road blocks preventing solar energy from making it to the consumer. Adopting solar energy will require substantial changes to utility infrastructure before solar energy can be integrated into the power grid. But solving the problem of systems integration is part of the Solar Energy Technologies Program. Someday soon, solar energy will be a universal form of renewable energy. Some infos in german language, you can find on an info portal about solar energy and photovoltaik modules. 

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