Solar Energy

The Basics of Solar Energy


Do you know much about solar energy? Here is a list of some basic residential terms, ideas, and products which utilize the sun’s energy from The National Renewable Energy Labratory

Photo of a solar electric system in Colorado with snow-covered mountain peaks in the background.


The sun is very powerful. Okay, that may be a bit of an understatement. Seriously, the sun casts enough energy onto the earth in one hour to power all worlds electricity for one year. What’s more, IT’S FREE! That’s right, the sun provides free energy. In fact, the sun is responsible for all known useful sources of energy. The thing is, some forms of energy are easier than others to extract and/or use. Drilling for oil is perhaps most expensive of all. And, I’m not talking about the expense it takes on our environment, I’m referencing the fact that it cost more to derive energy from oil, than directly from our worldly source of energy the sun through solar energy.


Let me say this again: all energy is derived from the sun; our civilization depends on energy, and some methods of gathering this power are cheaper than others.

This is where solar energy comes in. Here are the best ways for you, an individual, to increase your personal benefit from this free source of energy.


Photo of a large silicon solar array on a roof with a blue sky and trees in background.
Solar Panels--Individual panels of photovoltaic cells (PC's) convert the sun's energy directly into electricity. The PV effect was first discovered in 1954, and have since been used to power everything from watches and calculators, to satellites.

Solar PV Technology Basics -- U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy





Illustration of an active, closed loop solar water heater. A large, flat panel called a flat plate collector is connected to a tank called a solar storage/backup water heater by two pipes. One of these pipes runs through a cylindrical pump into the bottom of the tank, where it becomes a coil called a double-wall heat exchanger. This coil runs up through the tank and out again to the flat plate collector. Antifreeze fluid runs only through this collector loop. Two pipes run out the top of the water heater tank; one is a cold water supply into the tank, and the other sends hot water to the house.
Solar Water Heating-- This method uses the sun's energy to heat water stored in panels, which provides a huge electric savings.
Components, selection, installation, and maintenance of residential solar water heaters
Economics of solar water heating systems for homes
Energy-efficient water heating strategies for homes.







Passive Solar Design-- Is a system of design that maximizes efficiency by integrating knowledge of the Sun's pattern into ideal building design. Passive House Institute US Project Certification









Solar Energy Technology Basics
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Solar Energy Conversion Data
U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Sunshot Initiative
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Photovoltaic Technology Basics
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Concentrating Solar Power
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Energy Kids Solar Basics
U.S. Energy Information Administration Energy Kids

Clean Energy Education and Professional Development
U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

All information and images above were sourced from
https://www.nrel.gov