Solar energy, how is it used

The sunlight that reaches the Earth has an enormous amount of energy that until not long ago was not used by mankind, however, with the discovery of different technologies were able to create several systems that allow to take full What is solar energy? Concept and definition

Solar energy, by definition, is the energy obtained directly from the electromagnetic radiation coming from the sun. This star is an enormous nuclear reactor that transforms part of its mass into energy, emitting it into space in the form of electromagnetic radiation.

Solar energy, as a concept, is a type of renewable or inexhaustible energy. This green energy has been harnessed by mankind throughout its history. It is considered a renewable energy source because, although the sun will someday stop working as it does today, there are still millions of years to go before that happens, so it is a practically inexhaustible source of energy (at least for a couple of million years).

Thanks to the evolution of new technologies, it has been possible to transform this energy into both electrical and thermal energy. Thus, the use of this energy in everyday use has been improved.

In this way, the radiation that reaches the Earth's surface can be harnessed from solar light and heat for, on the one hand, the generation of electrical energy (photovoltaic or solar thermal energy), or for the generation of solar thermal energy. In addition, there are other types of uses that utilize this energy indirectly.

Depending on the type, different installations and elements will be used to achieve this transformation. It is estimated that every square meter of the Earth receives at least 1 kilowatt of energy per second on a sunny day, which translates into an enormous amount of energy that is not fully utilized. Below is a diagram with all the information you need to know.

What is solar energy used for?

Solar energy is used to produce electrical energy, which can then be used to power any electrical appliance. Taking this into account, it can be said that solar energy is used for the following:

- Powering electrical appliances directly (solar panels that receive and transform solar energy, but are directly connected to certain appliances and their efficiency is null during the night).

- To feed storage batteries (solar panels that receive and transform solar energy, which is used to be stored in a battery that is connected to an electric circuit and feeds different appliances).

- Contribute to a city's electrical system (solar panels that receive and transform the energy from the sun and send it to the city's circuit, thus reducing dependence on other non-renewable sources). This can also be achieved through solar thermal power plants.

Characteristics of energy from the sun

Find out what are the characteristic qualities of this energy source.

Types of solar energy

As humans have learned more about the sun and the energy it provides, they have devised different ways to harvest this energy. There are different ways to use this energy. To make a classification of all types, we must distinguish whether the use of this energy is obtained by performing a series of transformations, or if we use it directly.

In this way, it can be used actively by means of two technologies: to obtain electricity from photovoltaic energy, or to obtain heat energy, using solar thermal energy. On the other hand, heat can be obtained directly from sunlight using passive solar energy, based on the construction of buildings in such a way as to maximize energy savings.

Solar energy and passive architecture

This energy is one of the oldest and most widely used around the world, since it consists of making buildings and objects that allow the use of the sun's rays. A clear use of this energy is that of ancient temples, where they tried to create large windows in order to illuminate the interior during the day.

Photovoltaic solar energy

It is the best known, since it is where solar panels are used to receive direct current from the sun; this energy is then treated to be converted into alternating current, which can be used to power certain appliances, batteries or contribute to a larger electrical system.

Solar thermal energy

Although less conventional, this form of obtaining energy from the sun is also very efficient, as it involves heating water by means of solar collectors. Once the water is heated, it is transformed into steam, which is then used to drive turbines that generate electricity.

Although rare, it is highly efficient, which is why many countries have designed several plants of this type.

Uses of solar energy

We explain how this energy can be used with several examples of solar applications. The industry or large solar plants are not the only places where it is used, as we can use it in our homes for various functions.

Solar energy can be used in an infinite number of cases and the best of all is that it can be adapted to almost any human need, but this requires investment, which is why many countries ignore it completely.

Among the most frequent examples of the use of solar energy, we can mention the following:

- To heat water. There are solar panels that function as water heaters.

- To supply electrical energy to an already supplied network. Ideal to reduce dependence on other non-renewable energy sources.

- To illuminate places with special beacons, which store energy during the day and use it at night.

- For transportation. Although these inventions are not yet fully developed, the first prototypes have already appeared that make it possible to use solar energy as fuel to drive electric motors.

Solar installations

There are different types of solar installations. The purpose of these installations is none other than to obtain electricity and heat from sunlight.

Photovoltaic solar installations are the most common and are frequently used in homes and cities. To make an installation of this kind, you only have to take into account the following steps:

- Acquire the necessary products for the installation. Basically you must have solar panels (the necessary ones), inverter, regulator, stationary battery, charger and electric cables. This is something that may vary depending on the type of installation to be performed.

- Install the solar panels in a location where they can receive power constantly.

- Connect the inverter to the solar panels, so that it transforms the direct current into alternating current and can be stored or used.

- Connect the inverter to the regulator, so that the current flow to the appliances or batteries is controlled.

- Locate and adapt the stationary batteries according to the use they are going to have (either to feed constantly certain devices or if they will only come into operation if the solar energy is not enough).

This is something summarized, since other aspects must be taken into account when making a solar home installation. In addition, it is important to know that these installations can be very expensive, however, it can be considered a long-term investment, since you will be less dependent on conventional electricity and the costs of the bill at the end of the month will be reduced.

On the other hand, solar thermal installations are also very common at the industrial level. They are mainly used for electricity and heat generation, as well as being the result of many lines of research.