I was first introduced to solar energy in the movie, Race the Sun with James Belushi and Halley Berry in the lead. It was a story about low- income and under achieving Hawaiian students encouraged by their teacher to join the Solar Car race. In the movie, a car shaped like a cockroach and covered with solar panels used the sun’s rays as an alternative energy source to run the car.
The energy poduced from sun’s light and heat is known as solar energy. Solar energy is a free and unlimited source of energy. There are no harmful causes such as air and water pollution by using solar energy. But there is still some impacts on the environment although indirect.
The use of solar power for homes for daylight systems are also being used to maximize the energy released by the sun. This system is used to supply internal illumination by replacing the non-natural lighting. Sawtooth roofs, Light Shelfs, Skylights and Light Tubes are all different types of Daylight systems. Daylight systems when they are properly implemented can reduce lighting-related energy consumption by 25 percent.
Solar energy can also be developed into solar thermal technologies which can be used for water heating, space heating, space cooling and process heat generation. Solar energy can also be used to distil water and make saline or brackish water potable or drinkable.
Photovoltaics or PV is the method used to convert sunlight into electricity. PV has been mainly used to power small and medium-sized things like a calculator powered by a single solar cell. There are homes powered by photovoltaics. Using solar energy for water and space heating is the most widely use application of solar energy. While ventilation and solar air heating is also growing in popularity.
Solar energy efficiency with all its benefits has some limitations. It does not work during night time. The benefits of setting up a solar power plant exceeds much more than the initial high cost of setting it up.