Renewable Energy 101: How Does Solar Energy Work?

The sun has powered organic life on planet Earth since before human beings even existed. And we’ve attempted to harness the power of solar energy since the very beginning. Although early uses for solar energy revolved around methods to ignite a fire, the 20th century introduced mankind to the potential of solar electricity. In this video, we’ll explore the technology behind a solar power system and how it converts the sun’s rays into clean, renewable energy while caring for Mother Earth. It’s an energy strategy that proves working with nature can yield greater results than trying to fight against it. You can visit our website for more information today!

Transcript:

Renewable Energy 101

Question: What’s the most abundant energy source in our solar system? Here’s a hint, it’s 1 million times bigger than the Earth and without it our planet would be a dark, cold rock floating in space. You guessed it: the incredible, brilliant sun.

The Earth gets more energy from this ball of fire and gas in one day than the whole world’s population uses in an entire year. Every living thing depends on the sun for its existence, from tiny microbes deep in the ocean to plants, animals and people.

Humans have been tinkering with solar energy since the dawn of time. Ancient civilizations used glass and mirrors to light fires, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that technology was developed to convert the sun’s energy into electricity using photovoltaic cells. Today, solar technology is more efficient and less expensive and is used all around the globe to create electricity, heat water, cook food and even power vehicles.

So how do solar panels usually work? When the sun hits a solar panel, material inside (usually silicon) absorbs the energy. This causes the electrons and its atoms to get very excited and start dancing around. The atoms then get hot and shed the electrons, which travel out of the panel through copper wiring and — ZAP! — we have electricity! A control device called an inverter changes this electricity from direct current to the alternating current we use. The electricity then passes from breaker boxes to outlets and into electrical items like a computer and lights. Whatever you don’t use can go back into the grid to be used by someone else.

So there you have it — the amazing power of the sun. Some people see a future where most of our energy can come from this pollution-free and renewable resource, and that’s a sunny outlook that will make the whole world smile!

About Green Mountain Energy: As the nation’s longest-serving renewable energy retailer, we’ve been on a mission to change the way power is made since 1997. By choosing our 100% clean, renewable wind and solar energy plans for their homes and businesses, Green Mountain customers have avoided more than 81 billion pounds of CO2 emissions to date — that’s like taking 8.6 million cars off the road for an entire year! But, we’re more than just an energy company. We’re helping our customers make a positive environmental impact, support a cleaner grid and green their carbon footprints with sustainable living solutions, renewable energy plans and the purchase of carbon offsets. And, our 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Green Mountain Energy Sun Club®, has donated more than $10 million in grants to nonprofits for sustainability projects focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental stewardship. For more information, visit greenmountainenergy.com and gmesunclub.org. Together, we’re building a cleaner, greener tomorrow. About: Green Mountain Energy is the nation’s longest-serving renewable energy retailer and believes in using wind, sun and water for good. The company was founded in 1997 with the mission to “change the way power is made.” Green Mountain offers consumers and businesses the choice of cleaner electricity products from renewable sources, as well as carbon offsets and sustainable solutions for businesses.

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