As our society continues to “go green”, we continue to invest in the natural resource of the sun to produce our energy. While small businesses, corporations, and homeowners alike have incorporated solar power into their lives, many still may not know exactly how we’re able to extract energy from the sun. Here’s a simple breakdown:
Solar Power or Solar Energy?
First of all, it’s helpful to know that solar energy is not the same thing as solar power. “Solar energy” refers to the energy that the sun gives off. (This is the energy that you feel when you’re warmed by the sun in the summertime.) “Solar power”, however, refers to the power you get when solar energy is turned into electricity.
The method of using crystals to produce solar power is one of the original ways to do so. This method uses crystals that are made from silicon and produce an electrical current when light hits them. All light contains energy, and when other crystals are exposed to light, their electrons simply heat up. Silicon crystal electrons, however, move around and therefore produce electricity that we can harvest.
Large silicon crystals can be expensive to grow, so newer crystals have been developed.
Newer crystals are made from a materials like copper indium gallium selenide or cadmium telluride. They are less expensive to produce and are easier to transform into a thin film. This thin film can then layered between two glass panes to create a solar panel.
A Bright Future
Solar energy is one of the safest and cleanest natural energy sources we have. It emits zero carbon emissions and is constantly available for us to harness. Energy from the sun is more expensive to produce than energy from coal, which is why we still rely on fossil fuels. However, as we continue to use our fossil fuel supply, we’ll continue to make breakthroughs in the solar industry and maybe one day rely on it more.