Solar Energy
Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available, and the U.S. has some of the richest solar resources in the world. Modern technology can harness this energy for a variety of uses, including generating electricity, providing light or a comfortable interior environment, and heating water for domestic, commercial, or industrial use.

The U.S. solar market faces both challenges and opportunities; the industry is working to scale up the production of solar technology, and drive down manufacturing and installation costs.

There are several ways to harness solar energy: photovoltaics (also called solar electric), solar heating & cooling, concentrating solar power (typically built at utility-scale), and passive solar.

The first three are active solar systems, which use mechanical or electrical devices that convert the sun's heat or light to another form of usable energy. Passive solar buildings are designed and oriented to collect, store, and distribute the heat energy from sunlight to maintain the comfort of the occupants without the use of moving parts or electronics.

Solar energy is a flexible energy technology: 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.
Interesting Facts
More energy hits the Earth from the Sun in one hour that the whole world uses all year.

Solar energy can be used with renewable solar technologies to replace conventional energy systems that consume fossil fuels, thus help reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere and help reduce greenhouse effect and global warming.

A 10 kw solar panel installation (under certain conditions) is estimated to generate about 17,000 kwh in a year. In environmental terms, this is equivalent to avoiding the emission of 11.7 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

To help you understand this in real terms consider the following equivalent statements:

Equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 2.3 cars in a year.

Equivalent to CO2 emissions from burning 27.3 barrels of oil

Equivalent to the CO2 emissions from the annual energy use of a house.

The basic solar energy systems include:

Solar Thermal systems for water and space heating in buildings (used in houses or commercially)

Solar Panels (solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels for generation of electricity (used in both utility scale and residential solar energy applications)

Solar Thermal systems (CSP – concentrated solar power) for electricity generation (used in power generation and large electricity generation applications)

Other configurations exist, combining solar energy systems with other renewable energy technologies or with other conventional power systems (e.g. co generation of electricity).

Main advantages of solar energy systems:

Solar energy is free and abundant energy supplied by nature itself.

Solar energy systems are environmentally friendly – as an alternative green energy source.

Solar panels (photovoltaic PV panels) can be easily placed in residential areas (residential solar panels) in on or off grid installations.

On grid solar panel installations supply generated electricity to the power network.

Off-grid solar panels store generated electricity for own use – e.g. in country farms and remote areas.

Solar panels cost has been falling and is expected to continue on a diminishing turn in the future; this means that PV panels will gradually become economically more viable – not in need of any subsidy incentives.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels constitute a mature technology; PV panels are a reliable technology.

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