Learn about solar energy and the different ways of harnessing the sun’s rays to produce electricity.Humans and societies need electricity for almost everything today. We use electricity to bathe, light our homes and streets, watch TV, access the internet, charge our cell phones, and so on. However, for the production of energy, humans cause many aggressions to the environment, as occurs in thermoelectric and hydroelectric.
So some scientists have wondered why not make use of Earth’s most abundant energy source, the heat of the sun. After all, it is clean and renewable. Since then, a lot of research has been developing some ways of producing electricity and heat from solar energy. In 2013 alone, about one and a half billion dollars was invested in this important source of energy.
But how does solar energy work?
There are two ways to harness solar energy: photovoltaic and thermosolar.
Photovoltaic energy is produced through plates, usually made of silicon. These plates, also called photovoltaic cells , act to receive photons (present in the sun’s rays) and produce electrons from them, which is responsible for generating electricity in a process called the “photoelectric effect”, discovered by the famous scientist Albert Einstein.
Thermosolar energy is produced from the heating generated by the sun, in which heat is transformed into electricity through the production of steam, which is responsible for spinning turbines connected to power generators.
Solar energy is used in homes located in regions with high sunshine, using heat for both energy production and water heating, and also in so-called solar plants , which are still few in the world. The countries that generate the most energy from solar plants and residential slabs are, respectively, Germany, China, Italy, the United States and Japan.
Solar energy has the advantage of being renewable, abundant, take up little space and, above all, not emitting polluting gases into the atmosphere. On the other hand, solar energy production systems are very expensive and weather dependent and have low yield and low storage capacity.