The word “solar” comes from the Latin word for “sun.” When you hear the words “solar power,” someone is talking about the powerful energy we get from the sun. Solar power provides heat for homes and buildings. It’s also possible to use this energy as a source of power instead of using electricity or other sources of energy. Thousands of years ago, people realized the power of the sun, and even then, people tried to use solar power to make their homes more comfortable in the winter. Solar power is an important source of energy because it doesn’t run out and it doesn’t create pollution the way some sources of energy, such as coal, can.
Harnessing Solar Energy
As the sun shines down on Earth, different areas can collect different amounts of power that’s solar. San Diego, California, for example, is a warm and sunny place, and this city gets a lot of intense sunlight throughout the year. This means that southern California is a good place for solar energy collection. A solar company working in this area would use solar thermal collectors, which absorb heat energy from the sun. Then, this energy can be used to heat water or make electricity. If a system is big enough, the cells that turn sunlight into electricity can even make enough electricity for a whole neighborhood. Although solar power is clean (it doesn’t produce pollution) and powerful, the equipment to turn sunlight into energy can be very expensive. You also need an area that’s open to the sky, without too many trees overhead, to collect solar energy.
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Solar panels are set up so the sun shines down on them. When the sun hits the panels, tiny solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells, absorb the sunlight. These cells might be as small as a half an inch or as large as four inches each. The solar cells absorb the energy and use it to move electrons to a second layer of the cells. When the electrons hit the second layer, this forces other electrons to move down, too. This movement of electrons is actually electricity, which can power appliances in a house. In the United States, California is the more popular place to put solar panels due to the abundant sunshine and heat in this area. The Mojave Desert in southern California has a solar power plant that has been running for decades!
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Solar Energy in the Home
There are lots of ways to use solar energy in the home. With solar panels, you can collect solar energy to use for heat, to heat water, and to power appliances. A battery can store extra solar energy so that the house can have power at night and on cloudy days. Solar energy can be used to dry clothes outside on a clothes line, too. You can even cook with solar energy using a special oven. After the initial cost of installing solar energy equipment, the energy a household gets from the sun is free. Many solar panels can last for as long as 30 years.
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Solar Energy Fun
Solar power is the future of energy. When you want to learn more about solar energy, you can play games or try experiments and activities. If you build a solar oven with a box, aluminum foil, and a few other materials, you could use the power of the sun to cook a fun snack. You could even build a solar night light out of a jar and a solar path light.
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