Solar energy is one of the cleanest, most abundant, easily accessible sources of renewable energy. Solar energy can be generated on small scale, individual size operations and large scale, power plant size ones. Individual homes generate solar energy through silicon photovoltaic cells installed on rooftops. When sunlight hits the cell, the energy knocks an atom free from the silicon, allowing it to flow through the material to a converter that generates electricity. Heat energy from the sun can also be trapped more passively, through the use of thermal windows, skylights, and sunrooms. On a large scale, solar concentration systems use mirrors arranged in a parabolic shape around a central ‘power tower’ to focus the sun’s rays on a heat collecting mechanism. The collected heat is then used to generate electricity. Since solar energy can be harnessed on small, individual scales or large, city or countywide scales, it is readily available for use. This gives both individuals and public groups the opportunity to take initiative and utilize cleaner energy, leading the way towards more a sustainable society.
As we continue to grow and develop as a society, our demand for energy grows as well. To provide clean sources, we need to move towards more sustainable means of generating electricity, and solar energy is one of the most abundant and renewable methods available. Solar energy never runs out, making it very sustainable over long periods of time. Additionally, the production of solar power generates fewer pollutants than traditional methods of generating electricity, making it a cleaner source of energy as well. With the cost of installing individual solar panels dropping – by exponentially– solar energy will continue to be feasible on both small and large scales. Technological advances will continue to increase efficiency, drive down costs, and make connecting to the grid that much easier, making solar power one of the easiest ways to move away from unsustainable power generation.