The sun’s energy is what is known as radiant energy. The sun itself produces radiant energy through the process of nuclear fusion. Within the sun’s core intense heat and pressure cause helium and hydrogen atoms to fuse during this process some heat is lost out into space. Although through the process of nuclear fusion it takes millions of years for the energy from the core to reach the sun’s surface it takes an amazing 8 minutes for the solar energy to travel the 93 million miles and be felt on planet earth (solar energy, 2009).
Human beings have been reflecting and refracting the sun for their own purposes since the 7th century BCE. Simple magnifying glasses were used to concentrate the rays of the sun for heating water and starting fires. Over 100 years ago French scientists used heat from a solar collector to power a stem engine. One of the simplest examples of a solar collector is your very own car. Sunlight enters the car’s interior through the windows and is absorbed by the fabric on the seats and the carpeting. Darker colors hold more heat, I’m sure you have noticed that not only is your car’s interior hotter during summer months but also that cars with black or dark fabric interiors are even hotter than cars with light colored interiors.
There are many ways to take advantage of the energy the sun radiates and harness it for the power we need to run our appliances or even our cars. It’s a little known fact that the sun radiates more energy in one second than humans have used since the beginning of time. It almost makes a person feel guilty, all that power going to waste. Let’s think about the many ways there are to collect, store, and use the sun’s radiant energy.
Basically solar energy can be used in both passive and active manners. An active solar home uses mechanical devices such as solar panels, wiring, and batteries to collect the sun’s power, convert it to voltage and store it for future use. A passive solar home makes use of the sun by positioning the home or certain windows in such a way that they collect sunlight all day and then sometimes special shades are drawn over the windows to keep the heat inside the home at night.
The sun has been generating life on earth for millions of years. Human beings discovered it’s powerful uses early in their development. As humanity grows and develops it stands to reason that we should find more and better ways of using the radiant power that exists all around us. Not only is it healthier for the planet it is healthier for us and our children. One thing that really needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that a certain percentage of the sun’s energy is what evaporates the water in lakes and rivers, by harnessing more of the power the sun we may also be able to keep more moisture on the planet; a win, win.
Solar energy (2009) Secondary Energy Infobook. The Need Project, Manassas, VA. SolarS.pdf. Retrieved May 23, 2010