How Solar Power Works:
Simple Facts On The
Power Of Solar Energy

Getting the solar power facts and finding out how solar power works can be the first step in a lifelong fascination with the power of the sun.

Unfortunately, solar power info can also lead to a frustrating pit of volts, watts, inverters, and photovoltaics.

Let's just skip the frustration and get right to the fascination. (For additional background information, check out our pages on the history of solar power and the future of solar power.)

The first thing you should realize when learning about the power of the sun is that there are actually two different types of solar power. The first type involves harnessing the heat of the sun (also known as solar thermal energy).

This heat warms up water for our showers and it can also heat up the air in our homes. Pretty simple, right?

The original solar hot water heaters consisted of a tank that was painted black and filled with water and left in the sun. The disadvantage to this technology was that the water cooled off quickly when the sun went down.

These solar thermal collectors were eventually replaced with tanks that were covered with glass so the sunlight could get in but the heat couldn't escape as easily. Solar water heaters have continued to improve and, today, they can provide you with a great return on your solar energy investment. (Find out more about solar energy's advantages and disadvantages).

We can learn about how solar power works in a different way by looking at how the energy of the sun is used to create electricity for our homes. Instead of using the heat from the sun, photovoltaic solar panels absorb the little energy packets in sunlight called photons. These photons cause electrons to break free from the solar module's semiconductor material. These electrons are then captured to form an electric current so they can be put to work.

What kind of work?

Well, they can be directed into your toaster to toast your sesame seed bagel or they can be directed into your television so you can watch the latest episode of True Blood. In short, these electrons can be used to power anything you can plug into an electrical outlet. (We get into more depth on how solar panels work in the solar panel section of the website and you can also get some visual solar assistance by going to our page on the solar panel diagram).

To learn more about solar prices and the latest developments in the industry, be sure to check out our pages on the cost of solar power and solar power news. There is a lot to learn about how solar power works and some of it can get pretty technical, but don't let that get in the way of the solar energy facts.

Perhaps the most important fact to remember is that we've got an enormous ball of burning gas 93 million miles away that provides us with all the energy we could ever need.

Now all we've got to do is put that energy to work!

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