Home > How the Earth Works > Energy and Our Future (3) Thank You for Solar Power, Mr. Sun

How the Earth Works

Energy and Our Future

(3) Thank You for Solar Power, Mr. Sun

There are many forms of renewable energy, but it is solar energy that you can use wherever you are.

The first human invention to transform the sun's energy into electricity was the man-made satellite. No power plant is small enough to launch into space, so instead, satellites were designed with solar panels to generate the electricity they need to operate.

One early example of solar energy being used in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people is the "solar calculator," a solar powered calculator that doesn't need batteries. Today, solar power generation is also becoming increasingly common at homes, factories, and many other places.

Parking buildings with so many solar panels on the roof! (The United States)

In villages far away from towns, solar panels are small power plants. (Thailand)

Photo by bertrudestein. Some rights reserved.

In villages far away from towns, solar panels are small power plants. (Thailand)

Parking buildings with so many solar panels on the roof! (The United States)

Photo by J. N. Stuart. Some rights reserved.

Solar power is a technology that uses a material called silicon to transform light from the sun directly into electricity. Because the sun shines on every country and region in the world, people can generate electricity no matter where they are as long as they have solar panels to catch the sun's rays.

No longer do we have to clear away forest or other natural habitat in order to build a dam or power plant. Just place some solar panels on the roof of an existing building and there you have it: instant power plant! Nowadays, solar panels can be seen on the roofs of some school buildings. They can also take the form of "portable power plants," used as a source of power to charge laptop computers or rechargeable batteries. These gadgets are small enough to fit inside a briefcase or even your pocket.

Light is not the only thing that comes from the sun. The sun also gives us heat. Solar thermal (heat) energy can be used to heat water or the inside of a building, which helps reduce use of electricity and gas when boiling water or heating a room.

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