How Is Solar Energy Used?
One of the best parts about solar energy is that it can be used in a variety of applications. Yes, we all know that solar energy can be turned into electricity, which can be used to power just about anything – but solar energy is also used to heat homes or create clean water in Africa.
Today, we’re featuring some of the most common uses for solar energy:
Providing Electricity for Your Home
The most common use for solar energy is to use solar panels to create electricity. That electricity can be used for anything. People use solar electricity to watch TV, charge their smartphones, run their dishwasher, and keep the lights on.
Solar energy doesn’t have to be turned into electricity. Solar energy can be used to heat your home. Many of today’s leading home designers create homes with passive solar energy in mind. They orient homes to the south, for example, to ensure they capture the maximum possible amount of sunlight throughout the day. Other homes use specially-designed spaces to capture and store heat energy from the sun – which can heat your home in the winter and reduce your reliance on other home heating methods.
In the future, solar-powered transportation could be increasingly common. We’ve already seen solar-powered airplanes and railroads, for example. Other applications for solar panel transportation include buses, cars, and even roads.
The solar-powered aircraft called Solar Impulse 2 made headlines in 2016 for flying around the world powered exclusively on solar energy. The crowning moment for Solar Impulse 2 came when the aircraft flew 72 hours straight across the Pacific – powered entirely by massive solar panels placed along the wings of the aircraft.
Solar car technology is also in active development. We already have electric cars, so it makes sense that solar energy could be used to produce the electricity running these cars.
Have you ever been stuck in the woods with dead electronics? Today, you can buy a foldable solar panel array with a USB port. You place the solar panels in sunlight, attach the USB cord to your smartphone or tablet, then wait for it to charge. These solar panels are cheap, easy-to-use, and can be used to power any of your personal electronics – like wearables, smartphones, tablets, and more.
Rechargeable Flashlights and Other Lights
Today, it’s not unusual to find rechargeable flashlights with solar panels along the side. Alternatively, you can find garden lights, lanterns, Christmas lights, and other lights with solar panels attached to the top. You leave the lanterns outside all day. They absorb solar energy, then use that solar energy to stay powered on throughout the night. You can enjoy a colorful, well-lit garden without spending any electrical energy.
Solar Water Heaters
Not all solar energy gets turned into electricity. Some homeowners use solar water heaters to create hot water for their homes. You can enjoy a warm shower without spending any additional power. Solar water heaters are typically more affordable than a full solar panel system and offer a great return on investment.
We’ve seen a growing trend of solar-powered furniture and outdoor patio gear. These chairs and tables are sitting outside in the sun all day. Why not soak up some of that energy and put it to good use?
Some of this solar-powered furniture uses solar energy for garden lighting. However, some of the latest models have adapters and charging stations – which means you can charge your mobile device or tablet without leaving your patio or spending any of your home’s electricity.
The next time you go camping in the woods, you might not need to bring a generator. Solar-powered tents feature solar panels on the roof and sides. These solar panels collect solar energy during the day, then use them to provide electricity at night. Some of these tents have special lighting systems, for example, powered by solar energy. Others have adapters for your electronics.
Solar ovens are a unique concept that can work in a particularly warm climate. With solar ovens, you can cook food using the power of the sun. Solar ovens absorb energy from the sun, then use that energy to warm the box of the oven. Eventually, there’s enough energy to cook food. These ovens are particularly popular for outdoor cooking.
Solar-heated pools can cover solar pools to help the pool stay warm when it’s cold outside, or help the pool heat up when it’s warm outside. Solar pool covers work as insulated pool sheets. The sheets prevent heat in the water from escaping. That’s a basic concept.
However, we’re seeing a growing trend of solar-heated pools, where solar panels are used to collect solar energy, and then that solar energy is pumped through tubes to heat water as it circulates into the pool. You get a comfortable pool without spending a lot of energy.
We’re only beginning to see how solar energy is used. Every year, we discover new and exciting applications for solar energy.