The Sun is the ultimate source of all energy on the planet. Even the energy which we have to move, which comes from the food we eat, which comes from the plants that are grown (even if they come via another animal that eats plants) comes from the Sun. Most energy, as in this example, only comes indirectly from the Sun though, which is also the case for most of our energy sources. Fossil fuels, which were created by the decomposition of plants millions of years ago, also are a very indirect form of solar energy, but that is not what we are talking about here.
Instead, the solar energy which we are discussing is the electrical energy which is created by the sun when its rays hit a photovoltaic (PV) cell. These PV cells are made out of special materials and constructed in such a way that when photons, tiny particles of light, hit them, electricity is produced. These PV cells are often put together to form solar panels, which can be installed on roofs of buildings, or put together in large quantities to form a solar power station. So what can solar energy be used for? Quite simply, the same as anything else that creates electricity can be used for. But let’s look at some examples.
Solar Panels for Houses
One option for people in the UK who own houses is to have solar panels installed on their roofs. The solar energy produced in this way will be able to power anything in their house which runs on electricity, from their television to a heating system. Unfortunately this is not a viable option for everybody, not only because they might not live in the right conditions to be able to have solar panels installed, but because of the initial expense.
Having solar panels installed is not exactly cheap, but they are an excellent investment if you can afford them. Not only will they save you money on your electrical bill, but with the feed-in tariff you will actually be making money off the solar panels eventually. It also promises to be a very satisfying experience, knowing that when you are doing something as simple as boiling a kettle or using your computer, that you are not depleting the planet’s energy resources to do so, and that in fact you are getting the energy directly from the Sun.
Solar Energy for Electrical Devices
At present there are not many portable electrical devices that can be powered by solar energy. There is the pocket calculator of course, or the wrist watch, but not a lot else. In the not too distant future however the technology will be readily available to power everything from mobile phones to toothbrushes with solar energy. Research continues in to making this a reality.
Solar Power Plants
In the UK plans are currently under way to build several solar power plants. These will be able to provide power for hundreds, if not thousands of homes. They will also be able to power factories and any other building which requires electricity.
So what can solar energy be used for? Potentially, almost anything.