Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 | Author:

photovolteic panelsHarnessing the energy of the sun in more efficient ways is a major concern for engineers, politicians, and others looking for cleaner and cheaper sources of power. In the world of affordable clean energy, solar power is certainly one of the most talked about. Yet despite all the attention solar energy has been getting, it still accounts for less than 1 percent of electricity use in the United States. California is the state in the U.S. which has the highest solar utilization.

There are a variety of ways solar power can be transformed into electricity. The way with the most potential today concentrates the sun’s rays using an array of mirrors. The concentration of rays creates a great deal of heat, which then in turn can power a generator, producing the needed electricity.

Another way to make electricity using the sun is with photovoltaic panels. These can be seen on the rooftops of houses and office buildings. These panels are composed of several separate photovoltaic cells, which actively and directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity. The larger the number of solar cells in a panel and the higher the quality of the solar cells, the larger the total electrical output the solar panel can produce.

At the moment it is quite expensive to produce electricity using the sun’s rays. Electricity from the sun can cost four times as much as power from coal, and twice as much as from wind energy. Currently, obtaining electricity from the sun must be subsidized, but with the development of new technologies, and the costs dropping, there is optimism that eventually the solar power industry will be able to support itself.

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