Solar energy refers to energy derived from the radiation of the sun. This energy is abundant, clean, sustainable and renewable is converted to thermal and electric energy (light homes, heat water and electricity). Use of skylights in home construction has helped to bring in more light into the interior rooms thereby reducing energy expenditure. Being renewable means that it will be used for many years. It's a fact that the energy from the sun to the Earth for one hour can meet the global energy needs for almost one year. Research shows that almost 86% of the world's main energy consumption is derived from fossil fuels which are non-renewable since they take hundreds of years to decompose. When burnt, these fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides, and many toxic gases that contribute to the Global warming. In some places, people experience acid rain which is as a result of these compounds. It's for this reason that on 25th September 2015, world leaders met to commit to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals which addresses on the need to have affordable and clean energy. As a result, most of the governments have introduced cheap credits and sponsorship to encourage investment in solar and other clean systems of energy. More than two-thirds of India's population is exposed to high percentage of indoor pollination caused by biomass smoky stoves and the energy prices are continuously growing since they are not able to meet the demand. For this reason, solar energy is continuously gaining ground. Solar energy technology advancement is shifting the focus from unhealthy world of darkness to a healthy world filed with hope. Solar panels are easy to install, reliable and require little maintenance. The panels create electricity in very few millimetres.
The technology used to generate both heat and electricity is different and there are currently two types of systems. These are:
a) Solar Thermal Heating - This is a technology used to warm domestic water from the sun's radiation. Flat plate collectors are preferred because they are cheap. The pipes placed underneath the flat metal sheet run the hated water to a household storage cylinder for use.
b) Solar Photo-voltaic Panels - The panels placed on the roof convert light from the sun to electricity for domestic use. Any unused energy is transferred back to the grid or stored to batteries if installed. Fixed panels are cheaper than tiles.
Benefits of using solar energy
1. Reduces electricity bills - Solar energy helps to meet some of the energy needs e.g. heating water and home lighting, automatically reducing the energy bills. You will make money from the reduced electricity bills and the extra funds can be invested elsewhere.
2. Increases Home value - A home improvement increases the overall value and this is a case when you install solar panels. They make the home more attractive to potential buyers.
3. Solar energy is free and abundantly found. Its availability makes it more popular than the other sources of energy.
4. Green houses usage - Solar energy is converted by green plants to chemical energy to make food and fossil fuels through a process known as photosynthesis.
5. Heat from the solar energy panels can be used to heat water, dry or pasteurize food.
6. Solar energy is non pollutant and therefore recognized as the future alternative source of energy which will help to reduce the effects of global warming brought about by use of fossil fuels.
7. Solar panels require little maintenance because the batteries do not need water or other regular services and they last for long hence no recurrent costs.
8. Solar energy is environmentally friendly.
Challenges of using Solar energy
1. It cannot be created at night. The power generation is reduced on a cloudy day or when the sun is not at an optimal angle and this is caused by the fact that most of these solar panels are in a fixed location.
2. Today's solar panels are yet to convert the sun’s rays to electricity to their maximum. Research shows that the most efficient panels only manage 20% of the ray’s conversion.
Technology is at an advanced stage and soon solar energy will have a variety of uses including heating water for commercial or industrial use. The sun unlike the fossil fuels is here to stay giving us clean and reusable energy and this can help us to be less dependent on the non-renewable and costly sources of energy.