In each hour of daylight, the sun beams to our planet more than enough energy to service our global energy needs for a year. Solar panels is the technology used to harness this energy and make it useable.

Most people are familiar with Photovoltaic Cells (Solar Panels), which can be seen in many places and things such as spacecraft, rooftops, and handheld calculators.

The cells consist of semiconductor materials such as those found in computer chips. When sunlight hits the cells, it releases electrons from their atoms. As the electrons flow through the cell, the effect is to generate electricity.

On a much larger scale, solar thermal power plants utilise a variety of methods to concentrate the energy of the sun as a heat source.

The heat is then used to boil water to drive a steam turbine that generates electricity in the same way as coal or nuclear power plants.

In one technique, long troughs of U-shaped mirrors focus sunlight onto a pipe filled with oil that runs through the middle of the trough. The concentration of the sunlight heats the oil which then boils water for electricity generation.

Another technique uses moveable mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a collector tower, where a receiver sits. Molten salt flowing through the receiver is heated to run a generator.

Solar energy is an inexhaustible fuel source that is versatile, pollution and noise free. However, because it is exclusively created by the light from the Sun, in order to make the maximum use of it, we need to develop battery storage systems that would deliver the stored energy when sunlight is not there and also in areas where the sun has already set.

Over the last few years, production volume of solar PV has been increasing at an unprecedented annual growth rate because of rapidly falling prices and gains in efficiency and government support for individual residential installations. Japan, Europe and the United States are major markets for solar cells. With tax incentives, solar electricity can often pay for itself in a short enough period to make it a good medium to long term investment.


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