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Solar Energy – The Facts

Solar Energy

Fossil fuel has been used as an energy source for decades. But changes must be made. Fossil fuels will run out and there will be a shortage of it in near future. This shortage will have its affect on our daily life and various industries. We are seeing the impact already. Fossil fuel prices are rising and electricity is becoming more expensive, leading many to look for ways to save energy within their home. Long term, in order to solve the shortage of fossil fuels, we will need to look at solar energy and other ways to meet our energy demands.

Fortunately, alternative energy sources are growing. For instance, locations with high water falls are experimenting with hydro-electric power plants. Whilst locations with high wind levels are making use of power wind mills that can convert wind power into electricity. There are also places looking at thermal and tidal power as alternatives.

Solar energy is gaining traction. It is now widely used in the UK and the advantages are numerous. As our solar energy source is the sun, it is fair to say that this energy source is almost endless.

Rate Of Energy From The Sun

The sun’s radiation reaches a certain unit of area in space in the region of the earth’s orbit and it’s estimated to be at 1,400 watts per square metre. Out of this, photovoltaic cells (also known as solar cells) can capture 19-56 watts per square metre (for 15% efficiency), or the equivalent of 0.45-1.35 kilowatt per hour (kWh) on average.

Therefore, if there would be more area that will be covered by several solar panels, these panels can produce slightly more energy in the form of electricity than what is currently available from oil, gas and other sources of energy combined. This is assuming 8% solar cell efficiency.

Conversion Of Solar Energy

There are two ways of conversion of solar energy. First is the direct solar energy, which involves only one conversion into a usable form.

For example:

  • Sunlight hits the solar cell, converting it into electricity
  • Sunlight hits the absorbent surface of a thermal collector, converting it into thermal energy, which can be used to heat homes during cold season

The second is the indirect solar energy, which involves more than one conversion to reach a usable form. For example:

  • Plants use photosynthesis to transform solar energy to chemical energy. This can be burned later as fuel to generate electricity (also known as bio-fuel technology)
  • Hydroelectric dams and wind turbines are indirectly supplied by this type of energy, through its interaction with the earth’s atmosphere

Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy

Just like any other types of energy resources, solar energy has pros and cons.


  • It’s pollution free
  • Solar facilities can be run with little input or maintenance
  • It is abundant. As mentioned earlier, most inhabited areas can be reached by sunlight


  • Although it is abundant, non-tropical locations can receive little sunlight. Thus, the power that will be produced in these locations could be low
  • The power is only generated during the daytime
  • Photovoltaic cell technologies generate direct current (DC) power which needs to be converted to alternating current (AC) power used in distribution grids

In the future, we can expect that every household or industry in the world will now be powered by solar energy. It is not just a dream, it is the future.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to producing your own power.

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