As consumers and businesses start to look for alternatives to fossil fuels, the answer literally may be shining right on us. While the energy from the sun has been around since ancient Romans used it in the first greenhouses, the world is now more sophisticated in their ability to harness the power.
Photovoltaics (or PV) is the process that converts the sun's power into electricity. Solar cells are two layer silicon based panels. The silicon on one side is made impure with a positive flowing electron, while the other side is made impure with a negative flowing electron. The reaction between the positive-negative junction creates a flow of electrons that transforms sunshine into electricity. The cells are wired together to create a panel and the panels are combined and interlinked to create even greater power.
In 1941, Bell Laboratories patented the first silicon solar cell and it converted approximately 4% of the sun's power into electricity. Today's solar cells are about 7 times more efficient at 28% and that number is rising as scientists continue to make better solar cells. Solar energy in California utilizes cutting edge technology to bring the best solar options to their state. While failures of companies such as Solyndra bring negative attention to the industry, that attention is a result of poor financial decisions, not bad technology.
A solar plant that begins operating today would still be producing power anywhere from 25-35 years into the future with a minimal operating costs which would offset the initial high capital costs, as solar power requires no additional fuel and limited impact on the environment. The future promise of solar energy is too great to ignore. To learn more about the potential of solar power, our sponsor is offering a free downloadable brochure about solar energy.
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