Solar power is a phrase generically used to describe various methods involving harnessing the sun's light and transferring that into some form of other useful energy. What we know as solar power can be used in a multitude of ways to power machines involved in many different aspects of our lives. Practically anything one can imagine can use solar energy to complete it's function; water heaters, lights, pumps, battery chargers and batteries to store the power, as well as many other uses including transportation.
There are limits to this power conversion however, which are being highlighted more and more as the sun's light is subject to a phenomenon known as 'Global Dimming'. As we can guess, solar power needs sunlight to work, the more sun there is the more efficient is the conversion from light to another energy. Global Dimming, closely allied to Global Warming, involves the pollutants in the earth's atmosphere literally blocking the sun's rays and so the efficient exchange of light to energy is affected. This is naturally of concern to those who see solar power as a way of utilising a re-usable and sustainable energy source, even though the modern conversion relies on less and less sunlight. There are small efficient appliances that work on cloudy days in more temperate climates, but by and large the bigger the intended use the more sunlight is required.
Those limits, however, are being pushed more and more by the continuing development of more efficient transfer methods such as the photovoltaic cells used in modern arrays. Other methodologies using passive solar designs are helping tremendously in achieving a complete solar energy solution as are solar thermal heat transfer mechanisms such as those used in solar water heating systems. Developments in battery technology to store the solar power conversion assists greatly in this continuing efficiency.
Solar power is seen as being open to widespread interpretation. The term can be used, quite correctly by those involved in such diverse, but related topics, such as solar design in architecture, solar cooking, or solar heating systems. All use the term to describe how the sun's light is harnessed and changed into a power which is useful to that particular topic, but the way in which the conversion takes place and the eventual use it is put to varies dramatically. One can say then that solar power is a term open to interpretation by different people depending on the situation.
The demand for solar power solutions is increasing and the questions inevitably asked are: how can it be used for home or businesses; and how can we determine if there is enough sun in my area to use it? The concise answer is that there are very few places where solar energy would not adequately meet at least some of those energy requirements. Any such system assessed, designed and installed by qualified technicians could supply at least part of the energy requirements. Typically a solar power system will give sufficient energy even on a cloudy day, but would obviously give more when it's sunny.
To get a grasp on the solar energy situation one must rely on information not always available from one source. The whole subject is gaining prominence as more notice is taken about the environment, the world we live in and the limited supplies of fossil fuels. Various governments, agencies and experts have differing ideas on solar power and one really has to make one's own mind up about it.
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