Solar Power Basics Explained

Solar Power Basics Explained: We all know where solar energy comes from…that giant ball of fire approximately 93 million miles from Earth called the Sun. But how does something, so far away, create electricity or heat my water or
help me reduce my need to burn fossil fuels to generate that energy?

Solar Power Basics of Fission vs. Fusion

Well its a neat little thing called fusion, not to be confused with fission which is used in nuclear power plants to generate electricity. Nuclear power plants harness the energy of fission (the splitting of atoms of uranium-235) by using the heat created to generate steam to power turbines that generate energy.

Solar energy depends on the energy release from fusion (the combining of hydrogen atoms to create slightly larger helium atoms) in the Sun’s core. The energy released from this reaction produces an immense amount of energy which makes its way to the surface of the Earth in the form of light and heat. This solar radiation showering down on our planet produces great warmth and light that fuels aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

We Only Need a Little to Meet Our Energy Needs

What’s mind blowing is that the Earth only receives one half of one billionth of the energy that radiates from the Sun’s surface! That might seem small but it is the equivalent of 170 million gigawatts of power; this is roughly 10,000 times the energy consumed by all of humanity.

What’s even more impressive is that to replace all the oil, coal, gas, and uranium used to power our energy needs we would only need to capture a measly 0.01% of the Sun’s power that is delivered to Earth surface.

According to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to generate the electricity used by all Americans, we’d only need to install solar panels on 7% of the total land surface area currently occupied by cities and homes.

Getting the Energy to Earth

As the Sun’s light and heat makes its way to the Earth’s surface it encounters many obstacles from dust and moisture in the air to ozone molecules. When the solar installer takes measurements at your home she is measuring the amount of this energy that makes it to your property over time or more specifically the amount of energy they can expect to capture at your location.

This varies over the course of the day and the time of year as the Sun spends more or less time and at what path it takes across the horizon will effect your ability to capture the Sun’s energy. As the Earth tilts on it’s axis the seasons change which effects the number of hours of daylight and thus the output of any home solar power system.

The Sun’s energy in the form of light and heat can be stored or used by various home solar power systems to meet your home energy needs.

So let’s get you moving on to examine your home solar power system options.