Solar energy is a hot topic. It seems you can’t escape the topic in the news and on social media. OPPD is also taking steps to pursue a community solar project of its own.
But what does “solar” mean? Here are some facts and history of solar energy from the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Solar energy technology comes in two main types: photovoltaic and concentrating solar power. Most people are familiar with photovoltaic, which utilizes panels. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the panel’s cells, which creates an electric field across the layers and causes electricity to flow.
- An individual photovoltaic cell typically produces 1 or 2 watts of power. These cells are connected in chains to form larger units known as modules or panels.
- Solar cells are often less than the thickness of four human hairs. To withstand outdoor conditions for many years, cells are sandwiched between protective materials in a combination of glass and/or plastic to make a photovoltaic module.
- As solar prices continue to fall, solar energy is becoming more attractive to utilities on a large scale, and homeowners on a small scale. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times in the past eight years, to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015.
- The first silicon solar cell, a precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. At the time, the New York Times proclaimed it “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to … the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”
- Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth – 173,000 terawatts – strikes the Earth continuously. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.