Solar Energy 101
Solar radiation is light, also known as electromagnetic radiation, that is emitted by the sun. While every location on Earth receives some sunlight over a year, the amount of solar radiation that reaches any one spot on the Earth’s surface varies.
- Solar technologies capture this radiation and turn it into useful forms of energy.
- Homes, vehicles, and technologies require immense amounts of energy.
- Modern society is extremely dependent on electricity generated by oil and coal.
- These fossil fuels add to greenhouse gases that damage the environment.
- And fossil fuel supplies are finite.
- Sunshine, however, will be here for several more billion years.
- In a single day, the amount of sunlight touching the United States is more than 2,500 times the entire country’s daily energy usage. READ THAT AGAIN: One day of sun is MORE than two and a half thousand times the energy used by the whole country!
Turing Light Into Power
There are multiple technologies used to create electricity from solar energy.
- Photovoltaic (PV) panels absorb sunlight and use semiconductors (solar panels) to create usable energy. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.
- Concentrating solar-thermal power systems use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce electricity or stored for later use. It is used primarily in very large power plants. Tremendous heat is turned into electricity.
Both technologies help the environment by reducing the need to burn fossil fuels which translates to a drop in air pollution and greenhouse gases. *Another nice side effect is a reduction in noise pollution- solar is quiet!
One of the great things about solar power is that it produces its greatest output as demand spikes. Energy usage jumps during summer months due to air conditioners but that same solar energy that warms the country can be captured and used to power those devices.
FOSSIL FUELS 101
Coal, oil, and natural gas are examples of fossil fuels. Number one reason fossil fuels are BAD for the environment: they release planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Second reason, they generate localized air pollutants such as soot (fine particulate matter) and smog that increases the risk of death from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory illness among those exposed.
5 WAYS SOLAR ENERGY HELPS THE ENVIRONMENT
Air Pollution Reduction
Everyone loves being outdoors, whether in a city or the country. Being able to breathe unpolluted air is a joy and should be a right.
- Coal, natural gas, and oil involve the mining and combustion of fossil fuels.
- Fossil-fueled power plants contribute to poor air quality by emitting greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane which increases air pollution.
- In big cities, the pollution can be visible and prolonged exposure to the air can lead to respiratory health issues such as asthma.
- Solar energy does not contribute to any air pollution. Clean energy means cleaner air for everyone.
- Installing solar panels significantly reduces air pollution.
Conserves Natural Resources
The sun is the world’s most abundant energy source, producing 173,000 terawatts of solar energy per second. The entire world could be powered for one year if we could capture all of the sun’s energy shining on the Earth for one hour.
- The Earth’s resources are limited. To conserve them, shifting the focus to alternative sources of energy is vital.
- Coal, oil, and natural gas supplies will diminish over time as well as the water that it takes to run the equipment.
- Solar energy is one way to save water and other resources and ensure that the resources will not pollute the local ecosystems.
- Solar energy is clean and renewable.
- Solar panels are a much easier and more accessible way to extract energy without damaging the environment.
Traditional energy sources like coal and gas lead to air and water pollution that harms wildlife, sealife, our health, and the land.
- Going solar is good for the environment and the community.
- Solar energy is now more efficient and economically viable than ever before.
Solar energy helps to reduce the need to burn fossil fuels, which results in less pollution.
- Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels contribute to heat retention on the planet.
- This global heating is leading to catastrophic weather events.
- Since solar energy does not use fuel, no greenhouse gas emissions are created.
Fossil fuel energy sources require a tremendous amount of water for cooling pipes, generators, and other equipment that pollutes the water in the process.
- This energy supply becomes more expensive in a drought as the water has to be used to help power the energy plants.
- Solar power requires no water to operate effectively, alleviating the strain on the local water supply.
- Unlike geothermal power plants or traditional biomass plants, solar energy reduces pollution of local water resources.
- The fact that solar power does not need water remains one of the most significant benefits of solar energy.
The definition of eco-friendly means “not harming the environment”. As outlined above, there are a number of significant ways that solar power helps individuals, communities, cities, businesses, and the whole world become more eco-friendly. Overall, installing solar energy systems helps reduce climate change and your carbon footprint. Carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector accounted for 34% of total U.S. CO2 emissions, with the vast majority coming from fossil fuel combustion. Besides releasing carbon dioxide and other air pollutants into the atmosphere, coal-fired plants are also responsible for releasing millions of tons of toxic waste. These hazardous wastes are disposed of in abandoned mines, landfills, and other areas that can be dangerous for the environment and the health of those living near these dumping facilities. Simply, solar reduces hazardous waste. Switching to solar energy helps the environment now and in the future.
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