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Top 3 Ways to Harness Solar Energy

One of the greatest sources of free energy, both in the amount and power of that energy, is the sun, and here are the top 3 ways to harness solar energy.

Let’s face it, without the sun, there’d be no life, so it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of the sun to our planet. Not only does it sustain life as we know it, it also supplies thousands of times more power in a single day than we humans use in a whole year.

Which means we’re only tapping into a small fraction of the energy available to us, so we could do a much better job of harnessing the sun’s energy than we are doing. But, until we come up with new ways to use the sun’s energy, these are the top 3 ways to harness that energy.

1. Generating Solar Electricity

This is the way of harnessing solar energy that most people are probably familiar with, or, at least, the one they think of when solar energy is mentioned. That’s not to say people generally understand the details of how it works, but they’re at least aware that solar panels are used to generate electricity.

How it’s done is another matter. That would be via the use of a scientific discovery called the “photovoltaic effect”, which was the work of a French scientist named Edmund Becquerel, who noticed that sunlight reacted with certain materials such as selenium to generate a tiny charge of electricity.

This discovery has been refined over the years and today solar cells made from silicon are wired together in a metal frame to form a panel, which, when joined together with several more panels to form an array, can generate enough electricity to power a home’s electrical devices and appliances.

PV (a popular abbreviation for photovoltaic) technology is being embraced as one of the best ways for us to combat and hopefully defeat the effects of carbon emissions and global warming, and more people are taking advantage of its benefits for both themselves and the environment.

2. Using Solar Thermal Energy

Solar thermal has been around for centuries, although most people don’t realize that that’s the name given to it when they hear of such things as the ancient Greeks using glass and mirrors to generate heat from the sun centuries ago. This was early solar thermal.

Nowadays, the most common applications for solar thermal are to provide hot water and heat for homes and businesses and to heat swimming pools. Hot water and space heaters usually use a storage tank to hold the heated water, whereas solar pool heaters recycle the pool’s water through collectors which heat the water and transfer back to the pool.

3. Heating And Cooling From Passive Solar

When you open your drapes in the morning to allow the sun in, you’re using passive solar in its simplest form. Passive solar is any means by which we take advantage if the sun’s energy to supply heating and/or cooling to rooms and buildings.

Passive solar can be as simple as just shown, but is usually somewhat more complex as a technology and design feature. Passive solar systems are designed to store the sun’s energy in what’s known as a thermal mass, which is basically some type of material such as certain types of wood, concrete, etc., which retains the energy for later use as heat when the temperature cools.

Passive solar can also be used to provide ventilation via solar chimneys.

These are the most common ways currently used to harness solar energy, and combining these methods would be a great way to make a home almost completely energy independent. But, together or separately, they can go a long way to helping reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

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