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Solar Energy Facts

solar energy facts

Here are some answers to the most common questions about solar energy.

  • The sun represents an enormous nuclear reactor that converts its own mass into light particles or photons.
  • Trillions of photons fill Earth’s atmosphere every second.
  • The sun’s nuclear reaction consumes 4.2 million tons of mass per second.
  • The Earth intercepts just 2 billionths of the sun’s energy output.
  • On any particular day, 35,000 times the total amount of energy that people use reaches the surface of the Earth from the sun.
  • If humanity could tap into a small fraction of what the sun is supplying every day, society would be set.
  • At sea level on a clear day, 1 kWh of sunlight falls on a 1-square-meter area. That is enough power to run most appliances in a house.
  • Of all the energy used in the US, 39% originates from oil, 23% from natural gas, 24% from coal, 6% from hydropower, 7% from nuclear, and 1% from renewables such as solar energy.
  • Solar energy along with wind accounts for only around 0.18% of the total US electrical production.
  • Solar energy is known as a renewable resource. No matter how much we use, its supply will never end.
  • Solar energy is also a sustainable resource. The use of sustainable energy does not compromise the health and well-being of future generations. Further, it does not compromise their ability to use their own sustainable resources to any less capacity than present generations have.
  • Solar energy has many advantages: unlike fossil fuels it causes no pollution or land destruction of the land; no heavy equipment is required; no fossil fuels are required; it needs no refining; it is delivered directly; it is widely available and, finally; it is clean and abundant.
  • Solar energy has some disadvantages too. However, these pertain only to one form of solar energy – the photovoltaic (PV) power. Here are the disadvantages of PV: High initial cost, production of solar panels itself creates pollution, the sun is not always available because solar is an intermittent power source and, finally, there is a known issue related to the disposal of solar panels.
  • Solar energy has historically been more expensive than other energy options, but that is changing rapidly. First, governments are increasingly investing in new technologies. Second, many people are investing in solar energy. That results in economies of scale.
  • Solar energy equipment increases the financial standing of homeowners in two ways: it reduces their monthly bills and it increases their home’s value.
  • According to the NAREA, for every dollar a person saves annually in energy costs with solar equipment, the value of his/her home increases by up to 20 times his/her yearly energy savings.
  • Solar energy has no carbon footprint. For each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy-generating capacity that is installed with solar, a homeowner will save that much from other sources and most likely the electrical power grid.
  • Solar energy is tremendously versatile. I can be used in many ways such as to: Generate electricity for general use, cook, apply passive space heating, heat water, pump water, heat swimming pool, add landscape lighting, indoor lighting, power remote dwelling such as cabins and boats.
  • Solar works only when the sun is shining. If an energy is needed at night or on a dark day, either batteries or other energy resources need to be used.
  • President Carter added solar panels on the roof of the White House. However, President Reagan removed those same panels. Luckily, the panels did not go to waste and were moved to Unity College in Unity, Maine.
  • Germany is the world leader in solar energy. In 2009 it installed 9,785 MW (megawatts) of PV solar energy capacity.
  • Spain holds the second place with 3,386 MW of PV solar energy capacity.
  • Japan holds the third place with Japan 2,633 MW of PV solar energy capacity.
  • Japan has one of the most successful PV industries in the world. It became the first country to install a cumulative gigawatt of PV back in 2004.
  • Through forceful government policies beginning with the SunShine Program in 1974 and then more recent subsidies promoting deployments, Japan has advanced its global PV production.
  • The Japanese government is making solar energy an important part of its energy mix, with a goal of 10% electricity production from PV by 2030.
  • Individual homeowners comprise nearly 90% of the market and are the most common PV buyers in Japan.
  • It is considered that solar PV systems have significant impact on well-being in African countries: In particular they creates possibilities for education (potential to study at night), income generation (light to work at night), general awareness (access to TV and radio), health (less smoke, paraffin fumes that can produce respiratory and eye diseases) and security (better lighting at night, less risk of fires from candles).
  • In Africa, the massive use of PV systems in rural areas of Africa has not yet became a reality. In Kenya, where a strong PV commercial market has developed, the number of new systems sold each year is still only about 20,000 per year. That represents less than 1% of the number of Kenyan rural households.
  • Solar-powered thermal power plants can be successfully used for seawater desalination. A concentrating solar thermal collector array required for desalinating 1 billion m3/y would cover a total land area of approximately 10km2, corresponding to about 10m3 desalinated water per m2 of collector area.
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