Solar energy is the energy derived from the radiant heat of the sun. This energy heats up the earth’s atmosphere. It is made up of electromagnetic waves of mostly visible spectrum and a small portion of infrared and ultraviolet rays. Solar energy is directly or indirectly responsible for all of the earth’s energy sources; whether renewable or non- renewable.
Solar Energy and Renewable and Non-Renewable Energy Sources
Green plants trap solar energy in their biomass by the process known as photosynthesis. A greater number of animals feed on plants through which energy from the sun is absorbed in their bodies. Remains of dead plants and animals form coal, a non-renewable energy source, under the weight, pressure and heat of rocks. Also, microorganisms such as zoo plankton and phytoplankton form crude oil or fossil fuels deep in the earth’s crust and in ocean shorelines under suitable conditions of heat and pressure. Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources. The heating effect of the sun’s radiation creates climatic effects such as winds and cyclones. Wind power is harnessed as part of the earth’s renewable energy resources.
Advantages of Solar Energy
The total annual energy consumption of the earth is around 160 thousand terawatt hours. Most of this is from non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels. The global potential for solar energy is practically unharnessed considering its tremendous advantages over traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels. In contrast to fossil fuels, solar energy has several other distinct advantages apart from being renewable. Solar energy is a non-pollutant and is therefore an environment friendly energy source. Its availability is global and its potential is such that far outstrips what the world could ever consume. According to estimates, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the earth in a single hour is more than the world’s annual energy consumption.
Technology of Solar Energy Harnessing
The technology used in harnessing solar energy is broadly classified into two types: active solar technology and passive solar technology. Active solar technology includes the likes of solar water heating systems, photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar energy systems. Passive systems include applications in building design to enhance air circulation, positive thermal mass and light dispersal systems.
Areas of Application of Solar Energy
There are solar cookers used in cooking, there are also solar heating, cooling and ventilating systems. Solar energy is used for water heating. There are solar devices which are used for providing process heat for industrial production. Photovoltaic cells are used for the production of electricity.