Solar energy is an alternative energy source that involves harnessing the radiant light energy emitted by the sun and converting it into electrical current. Since the middle of the 20th century, the ability to harness and utilize solar energy has greatly increased, making it possible for homes and businesses to make use of the renewal energy source rather than rely on more conventional means of generating power. Research into the applications of solar energy continue, along with the development of more cost-effective ways to capture and store the energy for future use.
At present, the most common means of harnessing solar power is the utilization of a system involving a series of solar panels and storage batteries. The panels collect the radiant light and store the captured energy in the batteries. While energy is stored, it can also be used real time to operate various types of machinery and home appliances. The excess is stored for use at night or in other situations where radiant light is not readily available for some reason.
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In a home powered by solar energy, batteries are now capable or maintaining a power supply that will maintain the operation of appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, computers and entertainment devices such as television sets. At the same time, the solar powered home can also use the stored energy to heat and cool the home or operate a hot water heater. Some homes today use a hybrid power system that integrates the use of solar energy along with power supplied by a traditional power grid. While the home is not completely dependent on solar power, this type of system can minimize utility bills and provide an excellent backup system in the event that a section of the local power grid should fail.
Along with homes, health care facilities are becoming increasingly open to the idea of solar energy as a source of power in an emergency situation. This would allow a hospital to continue functioning even if the power failed for some reason and a backup generator system was unable to meet the current demand for power.
Once considered extremely expensive to build and install, the price for solar energy systems is considerably less than in the last decades of the 20th century. In addition to being more affordable, the newer solar energy systems are also much more efficient than previous generations, which helps them to be more appealing to homeowners and business owners alike.