Today we are going to discuss solar energy and answer the following: Is Solar Energy Renewable? There are many energy sources on our earth both good and bad ones. Ever since we went to kindergarten we have been taught that renewable energy is the good green kind and nonrenewable is bad. So witch one is solar?

Is Solar Energy Renewable

Photo: Public Domain Lilla Frerichs

One of the most powerful sources of energy available comes from the sun in the form of solar energy. Solar energy is collected via large solar panels which use silicon to take in the sun’s power and store it for future use. Once this energy is harvested, it can be used to provide power to cars, generators, batteries and much more. There are countless other uses for energy which comes from the sun as well. You can use it for heat and light, and it can even be used to power cooling systems for power plants, homes and businesses. In order to understand this is indeed a renewable energy source, we must first look at its different applications.

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Why is Solar Energy Renewable?

An energy source is considered renewable when it can be reused over and over again without going away. For example when you cut down a tree to make a fire another tree sapling will be able to use that spaced you just freed up to grow big and strong. In time you will be able to repeat the whole process by cutting down that new tree, making room for another one. This same way you can harvest the rays of the sun to make electricity. The sun won’t become depleted because of this use. More and more rays of golden light will keep on coming no matter if you convert them with solar panels or let the natural passive energy process convert them into heat or plant life.

This is not true for non renewable energy sources like coal and oil for instance. There is only a certain amount of oil on our planet and when man has gathered and burnt it all there will be no more. It doesn’t replenish itself like the flow of a waterfall or the trees in the forests.

Below are a couple of examples showing how solar energy is being used by both man and nature, but still its not diminishing the amount of energy that gets beamed down on our planet. In fact because of the law that energy can not disappear, it can only change form the solar energy hitting earth only heightens its total energy amount. So if you truly want to know why is Solar Energy Renewable and how come? Keep on reading

 

How Is Solar Energy Renewable?

Yes, solar energy is renewable, regardless of how often it is used, or the context in which it is used. One of the common technologies associated with its use is called photovoltaic systems. Photovoltaic, or solar cell systems, convert light from the sun directly into electricity. These solar cells are most commonly used to power items such as watches or calculators. The semiconducting materials that they employ are similar to those that are used inside computer chips. Electrons are dislodged from their atoms when these materials absorb sunlight. As a result, these electrons flow through the material to produce electricity. When the electrons have run their course through the electrical circuit and once again reunited with their atoms, they are ready to get dislodged by new sunlight once again, repeating the process. This is what is commonly referred to as the photovoltaic effect. The photovoltaic effect is renewable and this is why one can always answer yes to the question, Is Solar Energy Renewable?

 

Renewable Solar Energy

Photo: Public Domain Anna Langova

Renewable Solar Energy used to Heat Water

Have you ever ventured into the shallow portion of a lake and noticed that it was much warmer than other areas? The deeper you dive down into the water, the colder it gets, even in the summer. These warm water areas are using the sun’s solar energy to become warmer. This occurs because the sun penetrates the water and heats the lake bottom. Dark mud areas of shallow portions of lakes tend to have the warmest water, because dark colors absorb heat much more easily. The same principle of heating can be used to heat swimming pools too. One of the most common ways that people harvest the sun’s solar energy to heat water is through the use of a flat-plate collector. This device is located on the top of a water heating system. It contains a small rectangular box which has transparent cover. Tubes run underneath the cover and they carry water to a heating plate which is painted black to optimize energy absorption. In this case the heating plate or the shallow pool will get heated for as long as there is a sun in the sky, they will not deplete the sun. The day won’t get any less sunny by this process this example is one of many that answers why is Solar Energy Renewable

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Solar Electricity

One of the driving reasons why people opt to use renewable solar energy is to produce electricity. The main reason behind this practice is to save money. Consider how much money you spend each year in electricity costs, and it is easy to understand why so many people turn to this option. Major power plants are using the sun’s energy to provide the necessary heat to produce electricity for large numbers of people. The plants usually use one of three solar power systems: dish/engine, power tower and parabolic-trough. A power tower utilizes a large group of reflective mirrors. These mirrors direct sunlight into the top of the tower, where it connects with a receiver. Molten salt, which flows through this receiver, is then heated. Molten salt is used because it absorbs and retains heat very effectively. The other most common system used by power plants is the parabolic-trough system. This system directs energy from the sun to large mirrors which are U-shaped. These mirrors, when tilted toward the sun, focus sunlight on a large pipe. Oil which flows through the pipe, is then used to produce renewable electricity.

 

Passive Solar Energy Usage

Solar energy from the sun is not always used to convert into electricity or to power machines. In fact, you are experiencing passive solar energy every time you step out into the sun on a hot summer day. It has been scientifically proven that the south side of a building receives the most sunlight in a given day. For this reason, architects are increasingly installing windows and energy absorbing materials to take advantage of this natural phenomenon. Walls and floors absorb heat during the day, providing a cost effective way to provide interior heat for larger buildings. This heat is slowly released during night hours, so there is a natural cooling effect when there is supposed to be one.

 

Sunspaces and Trombe Walls

Sunspaces are very similar to greenhouses in the way they operate. These spaces are built on the south side of buildings to take advantage of the solar energy which is collected in that area. Ventilation techniques allow heated air from the sunspace to be transported throughout the building. A trombe wall operates in a different fashion. While it faces the south side of a building as well, it differs from a sunspace in that it is constructed of an extremely thick wall. This wall is painted black to maximize absorption. Most people install a pane of glass in front of this wall to keep heat trapped for longer periods of time. The wall does an excellent job of holding heat in during the day while releasing it when it is needed the most during night hours. Trombe walls and sunspaces allow building owners to capitalize on the natural energy elements that the earth provides.

Buildning for Renewable Solar Energy

Photo: Public Domain Larisa Koshkina

Building for daylight

Daylighting is another great aspect to renewable solar energy. Homes are increasingly using daylighting features to cut down on electricity costs. Natural daylight can light an entire room with ease. The key is to make sure that windows are strategically placed throughout the room to direct the light in the desired locations within a home.

 

Renewable Solar Energy Advantages

So on the question: Is Solar Energy Renewable? There can only be one answer and that is yes it is. As long as the sun remains a fixture within our lives, and there is no evidence to the contrary, then there is going to be an endless supply of solar energy. Solar energy is both a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to the burning of harmful fossil fuels.

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