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Extract_The Source of Solar Energy

Extract_The Source of Solar Energy

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Prashast Kumar Dixit on Mar 16, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Source of Solar Energy
To get technical,
solar energy is the radiant energy that the sun produces.
This is the result of a process called
nuclear fusion
- the joining of smaller atoms to form a larger atom.The sun is a giant ball of gas consisting primarily of hydrogen and helium. Through nuclear fusion, hydrogen atoms in the sun's core combine to formhelium atoms over and over again.
The Law of Conservation of Energy
Each time this nuclear fusion reaction takes place, the nuclei of four hydrogen atoms fuse to become one helium atom. However, the resultinghelium atom has less mass than the four hydrogen atoms that fused with each other.Does this mean that some matter is "lost" during the nuclear fusion process?No, it isn't really lost.Due to the
law of conservation of energy
, this "lost matter" is converted into the radiant energy that the sun emits into space.You now have the answer to the question, "What is solar energy?" Let's take it a step further and see how solar energy travels to earth.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
Once the sun emits this radiant energy into space, it makes its way to earth as
electromagnetic waves
traveling at the speed of light. We perceivethis solar radiation as light, but in fact it spreads over a wider band of wavelengths known as the
electromagnetic spectrum.
The electromagneticspectrum organizes electromagnetic energy by wavelength.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
Image: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.
One misconception about the solar energy that reaches earth is that it includes the heat from the sun. In fact, the earth doesn't receive any heat fromthe sun since it's more than 93 million miles away! What actually happens is that when the radiant energy from the sun is absorbed by an object, itsenergy is converted into heat.
Solar Energy: The Ultimate Renewable Energy
The sun produces a tremendous amount of energy. Every second, more than
4 million metric tons
of hydrogen is converted into helium. But evenat this rate, the sun will continue producing solar energy for another 
5 billion years!
As a result, solar energy is considered the ultimate
The first way to look at solar energy is by
how it is converted into useful energy 
. There are two types in this first group...
The second way look at solar energy 
is by the
type of energy it is converted into
. There are three types in this second group...
Let's take a closer look at these five types of solar power...
Passive Solar Energy
refers to the harnessing of the sun's energy
without the use of mechanicaldevices
. Using south-facing windows to provide natural lighting and heat for your home areexamples of passive solar energy.There are several solar applications a homeowner can use to take advantage of passive solar energy...
DaylightingYou can get more information by reading about The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling. Back To Top
Active Solar Energy
uses mechanical devices
in the collection, storage, and distribution of solar energy for your home. For example, in active solar energy water heating systems, pumps are usedto circulate water through the system.There are several solar applications a homeowner can use to take advantage of active solar energy...
Solar Thermal Energy
is the energy created by
converting solar energy into heat
.There are several solar applications a homeowner can use to take advantage of solar thermalenergy...
Photovoltaic Solar Power 
is the energy created by
converting solar energy into electricity
usingphotovoltaicsolar cells.There are several solar applications a homeowner can use to take advantage of photovoltaic solar power...
Photovoltaic solar lightingRead Photovoltaic Systemsto learn how you can take advantage of solar electricity. Back To Top
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)
is a type of 
solar thermal energy 
that is used to generatesolar power electricity
.This technology is aimed at large-scale energy production. Because of this, as a homeowner, youwon't use
concentrated solar power 
directly, but could take advantage of it through a
green- pricing 
service offered by your regulated utility or an alternative energy supplier.For more information, take a look at Large-Scale Solar Thermal Power: Technologies, Costs andDevelopment 
Photovoltaic Solar Power 
Photovoltaic solar power 
is the electricity generated with solar cells. A solar cellconverts sunlight
into solar power electricity using a process known as the
photovoltaic effect
Photovoltaic Effect

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