What is Solar Power?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Solar power is energy that is derived from the sun and converted into heat or electricity. It is a versatile source of renewable energy that can be used in an amazing number of applications, providing power for everything from cars and boats to houses and spacecraft. It is also clean and pollution-free.

Solar panels can generate clean, renewable energy.
Solar panels can generate clean, renewable energy.

For many years, solar power has been used in traditional buildings. In recent years, however, it has provoked great interest, as the high cost and limited supply of fossil fuels becomes increasingly problematic in some developed countries. Many businesses and institutions are researching new ways to harness the power of the sun and make its use more practical and effective. However, solar power is already in widespread use in remote locations where access to other power sources is limited.

A closeup of a solar panel.
A closeup of a solar panel.

Energy from the sun is converted into power using solar collectors, most commonly known as solar panels. Solar panels consist of solar cells designed to capture energy from the sun. The solar panels used in heating air and liquid are different from those used to provide electricity. To absorb the highest possible amount of solar energy, solar panels must be pointed at the sun.

Solar panels can be installed on buildings to capture the sun's rays and convert them into energy.
Solar panels can be installed on buildings to capture the sun's rays and convert them into energy.

Energy from the sun can be converted into solar power in two ways. The first way involves the use of solar thermal applications. Solar thermal applications use the sun's energy to provide direct heat to air or liquid. Solar thermal panels can be used for both residential and larger-scale applications.

Energy generated via solar power can be transferred onto the power grid.
Energy generated via solar power can be transferred onto the power grid.

The second way of obtaining solar power involves the use of photoelectric applications. Photoelectric applications use photovoltaic cells in converting energy from the sun into electricity. Photovoltaic cells are considered low maintenance and well suited to remote applications. They use semiconductors like silicon to convert energy from the sun into electricity.

Solar power harnesses the sun's rays to provide energy.
Solar power harnesses the sun's rays to provide energy.

There are some disadvantages to using solar power. First, a large number of panels may be necessary to produce sufficient amounts of heat or electricity, requiring a significant financial investment. Second, parts of the world that don't receive large amounts of sunlight are not well suited to the generation of this type of power. Third, solar panels cannot be used to generate power at night and the production of power may be impaired when there is significant cloud cover. Still, many experts believe that solar power may one day be a much more practical and widely used resource.

Decreased reliance on traditional energy sources is a natural consequence of solar power.
Decreased reliance on traditional energy sources is a natural consequence of solar power.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


Solar power needs to go worldwide because it's a free, infinite power source.


@StarJo – I love those garden stakes! I have nine of them with little LED lights inside of clear plastic shapes, like dragonflies, hummingbirds, and daisies.

The panels may be small, but they are plenty big to generate enough power to make them glow all through the night. Mine change colors every few seconds. They come on automatically once the sun sets, and they turn off when the sun rises.

So far, I've had mine for five months, and I've had no issues with them. They have really improved the look of my garden, because the dry weather has done a number on the flowers this year, so the solar stakes have taken center stage.


I've considered getting some of those cheap solar powered garden stakes, but I just wonder how well they work. The panels are awfully small, and even the biggest stakes cost under $10.

Does anyone here have any of these? Do they really glow all night, and how long do they last before they need replacing?


@wavy58 – A solar power system will eventually pay for itself. That's what everyone told me before I got mine, and it has turned out to be true.

The savings on your electric bill are just too great to pass up. If you can't afford it right now, then start putting money into a savings account for it, because you really can't afford not to get solar power.


I've looked into converting to solar power, but the cost is just too much for me right now. I've always heard that this is the hurdle that causes most people to keep their old electricity system.

A friend told me that I could buy a solar panel kit and do it myself to save some money, but I wouldn't have a clue where to start. I'm afraid I would screw it all up and be unable to make it work.


What are some really good points about solar panels? Give me the best one you've got because I need info.


I would like to know more about solar power, like why is using solar power good.


Solar cell is great material,which is mainly made from Silicon, and when sunlight shines on the solar cell, it'll start to generate electricity. If you put many solar cells together, they will generate enough electricity power for family daily use. The electricity generated can be used directly, stored locally or fed into an existing electricity grid.

Every day you get free and clean power from the sun.

In the USA,3000W solar cell can generate 7.8kwh average every sunny day, which mainly depends on sunshine strength, sunshine hours and temperature.


I have a chance to get some 15 to 20 year old solar panels, up to 80 watt units, but it will take a 5 hour drive and probably a days labor to take down the 10 panels. Based on the age, is it worth the trouble or do they reduce their output so much that I would be better off investing in new ones? It is going to cost me the labor and gas etc. thanks


I would love to know how one would get started converting a household to solar power. What you need and the costs.


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