Solar energy

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Solar energy is a renewable energy resource that comes from the radiant heat of the sun. Once collected, solar energy can be transformed into heat or electricity.[1]

Production

Solar energy is produced through panels that convert the sun's rays into electricity using silicon cells. These cells use photons from the sun into power for homes or buildings.[2]

Uses of solar energy

See also: "Net metering"

Solar power can be used in a variety of ways in homes or businesses, primarily through the use of solar panels. Individuals can install and use solar panels for several uses, including:[3]

  • Powering fans to be used for ventilation;
  • To heat water; and
  • To charge batteries.

Solar power plants can be built as distributed generation (located at or near the point of use) or as a central-station, utility-scale solar power plant (similar to traditional power plants). Some utility-scale solar plants can store the energy they produce for use after the sun sets.[4]

Solar power in the United States

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States produced 864 million kilowatt hours of electricity using solar energy in 2008. This production accounted for just 0.02 percent of the 4.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity produced in 2008. In 2012, the United States produced 4.3 million kilowatt hours from solar energy, or roughly 0.1 percent, of the 4.047 billion kilowatt hours of electricity generated in total that year. Thus, the total amount of energy produced using solar energy, and the percentage of solar energy to total energy production, both increased between 2008 and 2012.[5]

See also

References