Understanding Solar Energy
Written by Anna Williams and originally published at http://findportablesolarpower.com/ in 2006.
Light (particularly sunlight) can be used to create heat or generate electrical power. This is referred to as solar energy.
It is a clean form of energy production, which doesn't pollute the environment as some other forms of energy production do.
There are two forms of solar energy. The first is solar thermal conversion, which uses sunlight to create heat and then electrical power. The second is photovoltaic conversion, which uses sheets of special materials to create electricity from the sun. Photo- means “light,” and voltaic means “producing electricity.”Solar Thermal Conversion
Solar thermal conversion systems use reflectors or mirrors to concentrate sunlight to extremely intense levels of heat. (Solar means “of the sun,” thermal means “of heat” and conversion means “changing something from one form to another.”)
You can understand this better if you consider the example of using a magnifying glass to start a fire. You may have heard of this or even tried it before. You can hold a magnifying glass under the sun, and concentrate the light on a small pile of flammable materials. The magnifying glass will make the sun's heat much stronger, and will light the materials on fire. It has been said that a magnifying glass one meter in diameter, held under the sun, will create a ray hot enough to melt stone.
If you would hold a magnifying glass flat under the sun and put your hand under it, you would very soon need to move your hand away in order to avoid burning yourself!
Solar thermal conversion systems use mirrors or reflectors to concentrate sunlight onto containers full of liquid. Sometimes water is used. Sometimes other liquids are used, which retain heat better than water.
The liquids are heated up to high temperatures, and this produces steam. The steam is used to turn a turbine. The turning motion of the turbine is used to create electricity.
How does a rotating motion create electricity? When you set up a coiled wire or similar device to rotate between two magnets, it generates an electric current. This is how electric generators work, as well as windmills, nuclear power plants, and other energy plants which use such things as coal, gas, or petroleum.
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How Solar Energy Works – Great Explanation !
A Great Tutorial which describes the way which Solar energy Works.