From kinetic and potential to chemical and sound, various forms of energy exist on our planet. Each has its own properties and fuel processes that make aspects of life possible, including driving a car or burning a fire.
One of the major sources for energy on Earth is the Sun. Thanks to the Sun, life on Earth continues. Through different technologies, such as solar panels, solar energy can be converted to generate power.
But how do solar panels work? Here is what you need to about solar energy and photovoltaic, or PV, technology.
What is solar energy?
Solar energy is energy that comes from the sun. It is created through a process called nuclear fusion.
Nuclear fusion is a reaction that occurs in the sun and other stars and creates energy. In the sun's core, hydrogen molecules will collide due to the immense pressure and density. This collision has great enough force to form a new element: helium. As these molecules merge, energy is released from the leftover mass.
The solar energy that is created is released in the form of waves and particles, which move from the sun throughout the solar system. This heat, light and energy are all forms of electromagnetic radiation, according to National Geographic.
Solar energy is responsible for sustaining many things, including weather, wind and plant and animal life.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels, also known as PV panels, convert sunlight into electrical energy. The amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface every hour and 30 minutes is enough to power our planet for a year, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Photons are found in sunlight, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation. When sunlight radiates to the Earth and onto a solar panel, the energy is absorbed.
Solar panels are made of several PV cells, and each produces about one to two watts of power, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Each cell is made of semiconductor material containing negative and positive receptors, similar to a battery. A group of solar panels is called a "solar array."
When sunlight hits the PV cell, it releases electrons from the semiconductors. This creates an electrical current. The electricity is then collected through the negative and positive sides of the cell and flows out.
The amount of electricity generated is dependent on how many cells are in each panel: The more PV cells, the more electricity.
How hot is the sun?Get to know the blistering temperatures of the star's surface, core
Is solar energy renewable?
Yes, solar energy is renewable. In fact, it is "the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available," according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Solar power can also be converted into thermal or electrical energy.
Other examples of renewable energy include wind energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy and bioenergy, according to the United Nations.
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