Solar Energy - Introduction


Solar energy is the energy obtained by capturing heat and light from the Sun. Energy from the Sun is referred to as solar energy. Technology has provided a number of ways to utilize this abundant resource. It is considered a green technology because it does not emit greenhouse gases. Solar energy is abundantly available and has been utilized since long both as electricity and as a source of heat.

Solar Energy

Solar technology can be broadly classified as −

  • Active Solar − Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power and solar water heating to harness the energy. Active solar is directly consumed in activities such as drying clothes and warming of air.

  • Passive Solar − Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light-dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.

Conversion of Solar Energy

The solar energy is the energy obtained by capturing heat and light from the Sun. The method of obtaining electricity from sunlight is referred to as the Photovoltaic method. This is achieved using a semiconductor material.

The other form of obtaining solar energy is through thermal technologies, which give two forms of energy tapping methods.

  • The first is solar concentration, which focuses solar energy to drive thermal turbines.

  • The second method is heating and cooling systems used in solar water heating and air conditioning respectively.

The process of converting solar energy into electricity so as to utilize its energy in day-to-day activities is given below −

  • Absorption of energy carrying particles in Sun’s rays called photons.

  • Photovoltaic conversion, inside the solar cells.

  • Combination of current from several cells. This step is necessary since a single cell has a voltage of less than 0.5 V.

  • Conversion of the resultant DC to AC.

In the next chapter, we will learn the Photovoltaic method of converting solar energy into electricity.