Solar energy is a renewable and infinite source of energy that is created by nuclear fusion reactions deep in the sun. The amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface in an hour and a half is enough to manage the entire world's energy consumption for a whole year.
Solartechnologies convert this sunlight into electrical energy by means of photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. This energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage. The United States, China, India, Japan and Vietnam have all positioned themselves as leaders in solar energy production.
While once seen as a niche market, these countries are demonstrating that this renewable energy source is a legitimate answer to the global search for alternatives to fossil fuels. The vast majority of photovoltaic products, or solar panels, are being installed in remote areas by giant solar farms that sell energy to utilities. Satellite images show the incredible growth of these huge solar farms that continue to appear all over China. China's dramatic increase in solar power is due to the nation's desperate need for electricity and its severe air pollution crisis. While some countries have reduced incentives to install solar panels, China's government is strongly encouraging financial institutions to incentivize solar installations.
The United States has continued to improve its position as a leader in solar energy by expanding its utility sector and its facilities in the residential market. Much of the increase is due to significant government incentives given to the residential sector, which is a fast-growing market segment. The International Energy Agency estimates that solar energy production accounts for 700 million tons of CO2 savings each year. This energy is created by the constant nuclear fusion reactions that occur deep in the sun. Nuclear fusion in the sun occurs when protons (which are essentially the same as hydrogen atoms) collide and fuse at extreme temperatures and pressures to create helium.
This process emits a massive amount of energy (in addition to more protons), and in the center of the sun, this reaction occurs constantly, producing more than 500 million tons of hydrogen atoms per second. Renewable energy is now the lowest-cost source of energy generation, meaning that the more solar, wind and energy efficiency you choose instead of fossil fuels, the lower the utility bills will be for all. Securing funding for solar infrastructure in black and indigenous communities and communities of color can ensure that the benefits of solar energy are available to all. The material capacity of solar energy has the potential to empower communities by allowing them to own and generate their own energy. Within the cumulative photovoltaic capacity in the United States, there has been growth in the distributed generation segment, which are all grid-connected photovoltaic installations in residential and non-residential markets. Non-residential market includes facilities on commercial, government, school and non-profit properties. An SREC program is an alternative to the popular power tariff model in Europe.
The key difference between the two models is the market-based mechanism that drives the value of SRECs and, therefore, the value of the subsidy for solar energy. In a power tariff model, the government sets the value of electricity produced by a solar installation. If the level is higher, more solar energy is built and the program is more expensive. If the power tariff is set lower, less solar energy is generated and the program is inefficient.
The problem with SRECs is the lack of certainty for investors. A feed fee provides a known return on investment, while an SREC program provides a potential return on investment. Although more can be done to harness the energy of that bright fireball in the sky, several countries have taken the lead in capturing energy from the sun and are using it as a viable source of electricity. When photons, or light particles, collide with the thin layer of silicon on top of a solar panel, they eject electrons from silicon atoms. The capacity factor of solar photovoltaic units is highly dependent on climate and latitude, so it varies significantly from state to state. Latitude, climate and weather patterns are important factors affecting insolation, which is defined as amount of solar radiation received on a given surface during a specific period of time. A solar energy tower uses a set of tracking reflectors (heliostats) to concentrate light on a central receiver on a tower.
As one of the most densely populated countries in the world, Japan cannot afford to cover huge tracts of land with solar panels. Solar farms are large areas of land that contain interconnected solar panels placed together on many acres, to collect large amounts of solar energy at once. In 1954, photovoltaic technology was born when Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson developed silicon photovoltaic cells at Bell Labs; these were capable of absorbing and converting enough solar energy into electricity to run daily electrical equipment. Solar thermal energy is less sophisticated and simply involves direct heating of water (or other fluids) by sunlight. Learn more about groundbreaking research being conducted by Office of Solar Energy Technologies in these areas. FIT (Feed-in Tariff) policies have helped encourage faster development and use of solar energy; this has made Germany and Italy leaders in today's solar energy market. The material capacity of solar energy has great potential to empower communities by allowing them to own and generate their own electricity; this can help reduce CO2 emissions while also providing economic benefits through lower utility bills.