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An All Encompassing Solar Energy Definition

If you are looking to learn more about solar power, then the first place to start is with a solar energy definition. The solar energy definition states that solar power is the energy that is received from the sun. This energy can come in many different forms.

For instance, there is photovoltaic solar power. The photovoltaic definition of solar energy is a device which creates energy utilizing atoms which are caused to move around when struck by photons, which are tiny particles that are released by the sun. These photons are always striking the surface of the earth, and indeed all surfaces, and they are what is partly responsible for the sun causing things to heat up. 

The amount of photons striking a surface at one time depends on the amount of them that was released by the sun at any given time. The sun releases many more photons during a solar storm or especially immediately following a solar flare. These photons are also sent out at much faster speeds, and therefore reach the earth much faster during a solar flare or solar storm. 

These photons are also what is responsible for the phenomenon known as the aurora borealis or Northern Lights, which is why this phenomenon is so visible a few days after any major solar flare or solar eruption. Below we will look not only at photovoltaic solar energy, but also the other types of solar energy and the different uses of each.

Types of Solar Energy

  • Photovoltaic Solar Energy

  • Solar Thermal Energy
  • Concentrated Solar Power

solar cell10Uses of Photovoltaic Energy

Photovoltaic solar energy, as previously mentioned, is energy created when the sun strikes certain particles and causes them to accelerate. This is normally achieved by using silicon solar panels, and these panels are typically what people think about when they think of a solar power definition. 

Photovoltaic solar cells are used on homes and businesses to provide them electricity. They are also used on many signs you will see on the roads. They are even used in large scale solar power plants around the world. 

Solar Thermal Energy and Its Impact on the World

The definition of solar energy includes solar thermal energy, which is using the heat provided by the sun for a variety of purposes. 

Using Solar Energy to Heat Water

Whether it is used heat water for a home or to provide hot water for a pool or hot tub, solar thermal energy is a very good way of providing hot water. The majority of solar thermal water heaters utilize a black material which absorbs the sun’s heat and then transfers it directly to the water.

Heating Your Home with Solar Energy

solar collectorSolar thermal energy can also be used to heat your home in a variety of ways. Solar collectors are used to store the heat from the sun, and this is then pumped throughout your home to help heat it. This is considered active solar heating

There is also passive solar heating, which involves letting the sunlight pass into a room where it is stored. This is basically how a greenhouse functions. 

This technology has been used to heat homes and buildings ever since the time of the Ancient Greeks, and is still very much used in green architecture today.

Concentrated Solar Power

 
The definition of concentrated solar power is a device which collects and concentrates the heat from the sun. Therefore, the same technology involved in passive solar heating is also referred to as concentrated solar power. This technology is used in solar cookers, which are a great way of cooking food or boiling water in case of emergencies or while outdoors on a camping trip. 
 

They are also used in developing and poor parts of the world to allow the local people to cook food without having to cut down trees for wood, which leads to deforestation and a rise in pollution due to the burning of wood. These devices can also be used to boil water to ensure that people always have clean water to drink. While solar cookers are quite handy, they are far from the only use of concentrated solar power. 

Concentrated solar power is also the technology that is being looked to for some of the world’s largest solar power plants. A concentrated solar power plant utilizes a large array of parabolic mirrors which are all controlled by a heliostat which allows them to precisely track the sun. 

These mirrors concentrate and focus the sun’s light and heat onto a focal point, similarly to the way a child may use a magnifying glass to light a leaf on fire. The heat that is generated at this focal point is then transferred to water to cause it to boil and thus create steam. This steam is then finally used to power a steam generator which creates energy. 

andasolThe steam generators in these plants work exactly the same way as the steam generators used in coal fired power plants, except that the energy created is entirely done so with clean, renewable energy. The largest such concentrated power plant, Andasol, was only recently made operational in early 2012 and is located in the Andalusia region of Spain. 

This type of concentrated power station may very well be the way of the future, as much more energy is able to be created in a smaller area than with a traditional photovoltaic power plant which requires a much larger array of solar panels.



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