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What is Solar Energy?

Solar power is radiant energy that’s produced by the sun. Daily the sun radiates, or sends out, an incredible quantity of energy. The sun radiates more energy in one second than people have used since the beginning of time!

The energy of the Sun originates from within the sun itself. Like other stars, the sun is mostly a big ball of gases––mostly hydrogen and helium atoms.

The hydrogen atoms in the sun’s core combine to form helium and generate energy in a process called nuclear fusion.

During nuclear fusion, the sun’s extremely high pressure and temperature cause hydrogen atoms to come apart and their nuclei (the central cores of the atoms) to fuse or combine. Four hydrogen nuclei fuse to become one helium atom. However the helium atom contains less mass compared to four hydrogen atoms that fused. Some matter is lost during nuclear fusion. The lost matter is emitted into space as radiant energy.

It takes many years for the energy in the sun’s core to make its way to the solar surface, and then slightly over eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles to earth. The solar energy travels to the earth at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light.

Only a small part of the power radiated from the sun into space strikes the earth, one part in two billion. Yet this amount of energy is enormous. Each day enough energy strikes the united states to provide the nation’s energy needs for one and a half years!


Where does all this energy go?

About 15 percent of the sun’s energy that hits our planet is reflected back into space. Another 30 percent is used to evaporate water, which, lifted in to the atmosphere, produces rainfall. Solar power also is absorbed by plants, the land, and the oceans. The rest could be employed to supply our energy needs.


Who invented solar technology ?

Humans have harnessed solar power for hundreds of years. Since the 7th century B.C., people used simple magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun into beams so hot they would cause wood to catch fire. More than a century ago in France, a scientist used heat from a solar collector to create steam to drive a steam engine. In the beginning of this century, scientists and engineers began researching ways to use solar power in earnest. One important development was obviously a remarkably efficient solar boiler invented by Charles Greeley Abbott, a united states astrophysicist, in 1936.

The solar hot water heater became popular at this time in Florida, California, and the Southwest. The industry started in the early 1920s and was in full swing right before The second world war. This growth lasted before mid-1950s when low-cost natural gas took over as primary fuel for heating American homes.

The public and world governments remained largely indifferent to the possibilities of solar technology before oil shortages of the1970s. Today, people use solar energy to heat buildings and water and to generate electricity.


Written by Barbara Young a writter on RV solar power systems

In her personal hobby weblog Her work is focused entirely on helping people save energy using solar power to eliminate CO2 emissions and energy dependency.