Despite its proven utility to generate electricity, only 10% of solar energy is actually used. But as the effects of global warming become more serious, there’s no doubt that alternative solutions to conventional electricity will become more and more common.
Solar energy is one of the most sustainable power sources; it is virtually endless and it doesn’t generate emissions. However, one downside is in the amount of energy captured; even the most efficient solar cells capture less than 50% of the sun’s energy to transform it to electricity. A system using mechanical or electrical equipment to collect solar energy is using active solar technology. A second solar technology is passive solar, which uses different methods to avoid heat loss in a building.
Besides solar panels, other devices use solar power by concentrating it in one point using mirrors and lenses. Examples include the solar power tower, the parabolic dish, and the solar trough.
In order to use solar power, thermal storage systems are needed for times of weak or nonexistent sunlight. The latest advances in technology make thermal mass storage systems possible. These vary in both storage capacity and function, storing more energy during off peak times and operating during peak consumption hours.
Considering factors like limited oil resources, electricity costs, and global warming, alternative energy solutions will become a necessity. Solar energy is considered one of the most sustainable choices in the long term.