Solar power has been around for decades, but the expense of solar technology kept it from being a competitor for coal and gas power plants. It's estimated that by 2027, that's going to change. Affordable solar energy will be a viable alternative. You don't have to wait until then to see how solar energy impacts the world today. Solar is everywhere, and you likely don't even know it. Once relegated to the rich and environmentally conscious, it branched out into the mainstream. It's only going to grow. Solar panels are inexpensive and efficient, making them better than wind and other green alternatives. Learn how solar power is changing the world.
How Solar Energy Works
The key to solar energy is light-sensitive cells on solar paneling. Photovoltaic silicon cells, glass panels and wiring inside a metal frame make up standard affordable solar panels. Light from the sun, called photons, hit the light-sensitive cells and convert the energy into direct electric current. It's again converted to alternate current for home use. It's then placed into a battery and stored until needed or used in the home. Large-scale solar farms made up of many panels that follow the suns path across the sky can create massive amounts of electricity, but most applications today are for homes and smaller scale. Solar energy powers few homes totally. Instead, they use a mix of the electrical grid and personal solar power.
How Far We've Come with Affordable Solar Power
The first experiments with solar power began in the mid-19th century with French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerellar. He discovered the ability to convert light into electricity. Inventor Charles Fitts created the solar array 40 years later in 1883. He used selenium solar cells and created a small electrical current. Bell Labs developed the modern-day solar cell in 1954, but it was still too costly for public use. The space race helped solar research because panels powered satellites. The government has long been on the solar bandwagon. It ordered solar paneling installed in federal buildings in 1977. It also urged continued research into making it more efficient and affordable. Congress created the Solar Energy Research Institute in 1977 as well, which exists today at National Renewable Research Laboratory in Colorado. The government developed subsidies and other incentives for residential and commercial use of solar. It never caught on in the 1970s and wouldn't again until the early turn of the century. Oil prices climbed in the early 2000s and left many in America dealing with high gasoline and energy prices. President George W. Bush extended the tax credits for solar and made it easier for people to qualify. The emphasis on solar continued into the Obama administration with tax credits and grants including free solar panels for low-income families. This created a push for solar research and use that continues to this day. Technology advanced and solar is on the verge of price and efficiencies compatible with large-scale mainstream power production.
Using Solar Power Today
While large solar array farms are still a rarity, it doesn't mean solar hasn't integrated into modern society. There are more residential solar panels than ever, but it's the small personal and portable arena that it shines. Portable solar generators for camping trips power everything from fans to phone chargers. Unlike gasoline-powered generators, there's no noise from a loud motor or noxious fumes. No one wants to be next to a camper with a gas-powered generator. They're ideal for natural disaster situations as well. Gasoline may be in short supply, but the sun always rises in the east. They don't even need direct sunlight to charge. They may charge slower, but light cloud cover won't stop it. Municipalities always want to save money on electricity as do businesses. Lights for parking lots and street light can connect to solar panels. They charge up during the day and illuminate during the night. Street crews doing construction have solar panels on lighted signs. They don't have to connect to an electrical source. When you see a Prius or other hybrid on the road, solar panels help charge the battery that keeps it going down the road. Engineers place solar panels seamlessly into designs. People use solar powered items such as lamps for walkways, portable cell phone chargers, flashlights and more every day. What started with solar-powered calculators in the 1990s evolved into a phenomenon.
The Future Looks Bright for Solar Power
Solar power is cheap and reached an output making it worthwhile for people, but it's just the beginning. It's estimated that 43 percent of new electrical power generation will come from solar between now and 2040.It's become a major player when compared to other renewable energy sources such as wind and water power. While the United States currently creates about 18,000 megawatts, we're only the fifth largest user of solar power. Germany leads the world more than doubling our capacity with 38,000 megawatts. If we're using this much solar power now and it's only going to become more efficient and cheaper as time goes on, imagine the explosion set to happen. The portability increases and soon it can power your laptop for the whole day. We'll see solar fields dot landscapes, roofs of homes and businesses, fully solar-powered electric cars and so much more in the near future. Imagine the environmental improvement when the bulk of electrical resources are renewable. Imagine the money you'll save when the electrical grid powers only a fraction of the items you use.
Watch the World Change
Theirs is no doubt that solar power already has a large impact on society and that continues to grow. Businesses use it. People use it. The government uses it. We're in the midst of a solar revolution and you're a part of it. We have affordable solar power options now, but soon solar farms will dot the landscape. Coal, nuclear and gas power plants get decommissioned. The sky gets brighter, the oceans get cleaner and you save money. For more information about solar energy and solar products, then explore our website.
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