Solar Power

solar energy

solar energy, any form of energy radiated by the sun, including light, radio waves, and X rays, although the term usually refers to the visible light of the sun. Solar energy is needed by green plants for the process of photosynthesis, which is the ultimate source of all food. The energy in fossil fuels (e.g., coal and oil) and other organic fuels (e.g., wood) is derived from solar energy. Difficulties with these fuels have led to the invention of devices that directly convert solar energy into usable forms of energy, such as electricity.

Solar batteries, which operate on the principle that light falling on photosensitive substances causes a flow of electricity, play an important part in space satellites and, as they become more efficient, are finding increasing use on the earth (see solar cell). Thermoelectric generators convert the heat generated by solar energy directly into electricity (see thermoelectricity). Several projects have produced electricity on a large scale by using the solar energy available in desert areas. In one system, large numbers of solar batteries generate electricity for Coconut Island, off the coast of Australia. In another, oil flows through pipes that are set in reflecting parabolic troughs that can trap the heat from sunlight falling on them. The heat from the oil is then converted into electricity (see power, electric) using a steam turbine. Another system uses mirrors to focus solar radiation on a tower where water or salts are heated to high temperatures; in both cases electricity is ultimately produced using a steam turbine.

Heat from the sun is used in air-drying a variety of materials and in producing salt by the evaporation of seawater. Solar heating systems can supply heat and hot water for domestic use; heat collected in special plates on the roof of a house is stored in rocks or water held in a large container. Such systems, however, usually require a conventional heater to supplement them. Solar stoves, which focus the sun's heat directly, are employed in regions where there is much perennial sunlight. See also energy, sources of.

See F. Daniels, Direct Use of the Sun's Energy (1964, repr. 1974).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Solar Power: Selected full-text books and articles

Solar Energy: An Introduction By Michael E. Mackay Oxford University Press, 2015
Energy Decisions: Is Solar Power the Solution? By Childress, Vincent W Technology and Engineering Teacher, Vol. 70, No. 5, February 2011
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Energy: Perspectives, Problems, and Prospects By Michael B. McElroy Oxford University Press, 2010
Librarian's tip: "Electricity from the Sun" begins on p. 392
How It Works: Science and Technology By Wendy Horobin Marshall Cavendish, vol.15, 2003 (3rd edition)
Librarian's tip: "Solar Energy" begins on p. 2114
Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development By Joan Fitzgerald Oxford University Press, 2010
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Renewable Cities"
Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism By Ozzie Zehner University of Nebraska Press, 2012
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "Solar Cells and Other Fairy Tales"
Energy, Society & Environment: Technology for a Sustainable Future By David Elliott Routledge, 2003 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Renewable Energy"
Capturing the Sun: Solar Power Investments Can Offer Long-Term Savings in Energy Costs By Mirel, Diana Journal of Property Management, Vol. 75, No. 1, January-February 2010
Is a Solar Energy System: Right for Your Organization? By Swift, Kenton D Management Accounting Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 4, Summer 2011
Solar Energy, Technology Policy, and Institutional Values By Frank N. Laird Cambridge University Press, 2001
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