Solar energy is just one of the forms of renewable energy that is being developed as a replacement for the fossil fuels. It involves the use of either light or heat from the Sun, and can be utilised in a number of different ways. Active solar techniques involve the use of devices such as photovoltaic panels (commonly referred to as solar cells) to capture and convert the energy. Passive solar techniques, where buildings are oriented to face the Sun, can also be useful, particularly when it comes to heating.
The conversion of solar energy into electricity is one of the most useful applications, because much of the world's fossil fuel use occurs in power stations. The use of solar cells to capture the energy and convert it into an electric current is now becoming widespread, as the efficiency increases. Commercially available solar cells are now constructed from layers of silicon and have an efficiency of 20 percent. However, this could be increasing soon as current research models have efficiency ratings of over 40 percent.
In many parts of the world, solar energy is an extremely efficient method of producing power. However, it depends on the hours of sunlight each day, and also the light intensity. The process is less efficient on a cloudy day. This means that more than one form of renewable energy is needed.
Wind power also indirectly derives its energy from the Sun, which means that it can also be considered a type of solar energy. These are of most use in open spaces, which is why large numbers of wind turbines are often constructed offshore, as a wind farm.
Solar energy is not yet a viable replacement for all fossil fuels, but improvements are being made to the technology, and they could eventually meet the population's energy requirements.
There are many ways to help the environment