In today’s climate of growing energy needs and increasing environmental concern,alternatives to the use of non-renewable and polluting fossil fuels have to be investigated. One such alternative is solar energy.
Solar energy is quite simply the energy produced directly by the sun and collected elsewhere, normally the Earth. The sun creates its energy through a thermonuclear process that converts about 650,000,000 tons of hydrogen to helium every second. The process creates heat and electromagnetic radiation. The heat remains in the sun and is instrumental in maintaining the thermonuclear reaction. The electromagnetic radiation (including visible light, infra-red light, and ultra-violet radiation) streams out into space in all directions.
Solar energy can be used for other things besides heating. It may seem strange, but one of the most common uses of solar energy today is cooling. Solar cooling is far more expensive than solar heating, so it is almost never seen in private homes. Solar energy is used to cool things by phase changing a liquid to gas through heat, and then forcing the gas into a lower pressure chamber. The temperature of a gas is related to the pressure containing it, and all other things being held equal, the same gas under a lower pressure will have a lower temperature. This cool gas will be used to absorb heat from the area of interest and then be forced into a region of higher pressure where the excess heat will be lost to the outside world.
The net effect is that of a pump moving heat from one area into another, and the first is accordingly cooled.
Besides being used for heating and cooling, solar energy can be directly converted to electricity. Most of our tools are designed to be driven by electricity, so if you can create electricity through solar power, you can run almost anything with solar power. The solar collectors that convert radiation into electricity can be either flat-plane collectors or focusing collectors, and the silicon components of these collectors are photovoltaic cells.