Solar energy is an incredible investment for people around the world. Many homeowners across the United States, including those in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are making the decision to go solar. By doing so, they are able to embrace not only the environmental benefits of going green, but they also can take advantage of the financial incentives that accompany this change as well.
We want to put your solar knowledge to the test. Our EMT Renewables energy experts have put together a list of six solar energy facts that you may not know.
1. Solar Energy Dates Back to the 1830’s
The basic concept of photovoltaic solar energy and the “photovoltaic effect,” as we understand and use it today, was discovered by French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in 1839. What Becquerel realized is that certain materials are able to collect and convert solar radiation (sunlight) into electricity. This is the basis for the photovoltaic (PV) solar “cells” that are integral components of modern solar panels.
Modern solar systems consist of a series of connected solar panels. Each panel consists of dozens of linked solar cells, which convert the sun’s rays into direct current (DC) energy. Using inverters, solar energy users are able to convert that DC power into alternating current (AC) electricity for use in their homes.
2. Solar is One of the Most Abundant Energy Resources
Solar is the world’s most abundant energy
resource, and “173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth
continuously,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Let’s help put this into a bit of perspective for you. Electricity, which is
measured in terms of the amount of power that is being used at any given moment, is identified by watts, kilowatts (KW), megawatts (MW), gigawatts (GW), and terawatts (TW). A kilowatt hour (KWh), which is commonly how residential solar energy is measured, is the amount of electricity that is used during the span of an hour. Your electric bill measures your energy usage in kilowatt hours, which 1 KWh is equal to 1,000 watts of electricity for an hour. So, in this case, that means that 1 KW of electricity could power sixty six 15-watt light bulbs for that 60-minute span of time. A megawatt, on the other hand, is even larger, with 1 MW = 1,000 KW (or 1,000,000 W) — or 66,667 of those light bulbs. A gigawatt goes beyond that, with 1 GW measuring 1,000 MW (or 1 billion watts) — or 66.7 million of those 15-watt light bulbs. Now, keep in mind that a terawatt dwarfs a gigawatt, with 1 TW equalling 1,000 GW. That’s equal to 1 trillion watts of electricity per 1 terawatt (or 66.7 billion of those 15-watt light bulbs). Considering that there are 173,000 TW of solar energy connecting with our planet at any given time…
That’s a whole lot of light bulbs.
Because the sun has an estimated
lifetime expectancy of 4-5 billion years, it makes solar power a
viable, long-term energy solution for helping meet the world’s electricity
needs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA),
10% of the U.S.’s total energy consumption stemmed from renewable energy
sources in 2016. But, aside from solar, what forms of energy are considered
renewable? These sources of energy also include:
- Geothermal (which uses steam from how water to produce electricity);
- Hydropower (which uses the energy of moving water to create electricity and includes dams and pumps)
- Biomass (wood, solid waste, landfill/biogas, ethanol, biodiesel).
There is a bright future ahead for solar energy users. Solar electricity generation is anticipated to increase from an estimated average of 209,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per day to 287,000 MWh per day in 2019, according to the EIA.
3. Kamuthi is the World’s Largest Solar Production Facility
The world’s largest solar power project is located in Kamuthi, which is located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. With the capacity to generate enough power to serve 750,000 people  , this immense display of renewable energy consists of 2.5 million solar panels that are spread over roughly 3.9 miles of land.
China is home to the world’s largest floating solar power plant. This watery wonderland of photovoltaic electricity is on the surface of a lake that is 4-10 meters deep and located above an area of land where coal used to be mined.
4. China Is the World’s Top-Producing Solar Energy Country
China, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States are among the world’s leaders for total solar power capacity, and their investments in renewable energy continue to increase each year. Germany, which receives about half of the sunlight as many U.S. cities, has been among the world’s leading solar energy technology installers for years. According to Business Insider, the country had the capacity to produce 38,250 megawatts of electricity per year as of 2016. China is leading the way when it comes to investments in photovoltaic technology, bioenergy, and hydropower. According to
the International Energy Agency (IEA), “Today, China represents half of global solar PV demand, while Chinese companies account for around 60% of total annual solar cell manufacturing capacity globally.”
5. Space Exploration Vessels Use Solar
The use of solar energy has been an important component of space programs for more than 70 years. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the potential for solar energy production for spacecraft use was recognized by Dr. Hans Ziegler in the 1950s. Regarded as “the father of spacecraft solar power,” Ziegler determined that it was a viable source of energy for use in space after examining solar cells that were developed by Bell Laboratories. The first spacecraft to use solar panels was the Vanguard 1 satellite in 1958.
Since then, solar energy has been captured and used to provide power for the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and a variety of spacecrafts.
6. Solar Energy is a Reliable Resource in Emergency Situations
Solar energy has been a reliable source way
for people to create power in emergency and temporary situations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar energy generator sets are a great way to provide power in crisis situations. A newsletter from the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states:
“They are virtually silent, safe to operate, environmentally benign, and seldom (if ever) a fire hazard. They are also extremely rugged, having been designed to withstand the impact of hailstones up to an inch in diameter.”
The Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) and other emergency responders have used solar energy to aid in disaster relief efforts after major storms like Hurricane Andrew (1992) and Hurricane Georges (1998). We hope that some of these solar energy facts
have been informative. Do you have any interesting solar facts to share? Feel free to share your favorite solar facts in the comments section. To learn about how EMT Renewables can help you join in on the world’s renewable energy future, contact our solar energy experts today for a free consultation.