Many, if not most people, when they hear the term ‘solar energy’ or ‘solar power’, will probably imagine solar electric or ‘photo-voltaic‘ panels – those shiny things on house or office roof tops that make electricity. (The term ‘photo-voltaic’ simply refers to the process by which sunlight is converted into electricity). But creating electricity from the sun is just one piece of the Solar Energy ‘pie’. The other big slice is solar ‘thermal’ energy – this is where we use the sun’s abundant (and free!) radiated heat to warm things up, and then put that heat to use elsewhere – for example in a solar hot water system, or heating your swimming pool. Of course, indirectly the sun provides us with wind energy too – if you’re interested in this feel free to browse our other green energies section for more great information.
The solar energy world is a big and complex place, a massive industry spread across the planet, and this website will help you learn about some of the most interesting areas, some of the history, current products you can get right now, and where future research is taking us as a global community. New product developments are announced daily, new companies are created, others growing or in some cases being acquired. It’s a fast-paced and exciting environment.
From the perspective of the ‘green movement’, it doesn’t get any better than solar. The crazy notion of burning fossil fuels to create energy will eventually be history – either we can get ahead of the curve and make ‘alternative’ energies the new ‘standard’, or we can just run out of fossil fuels to burn. It appears that we’re at the tipping point. A study recently showed the solar industry in the last few years has finally crossed the barrier to a net reduction in the planet’s carbon emissions – previously it had taken more energy to produce the solar panels & associated products & install them than they saved!
Clearly the solar power business is here for good. It may scare many of the utility companies, and certainly some of them are reacting badly, but that’s their problem to solve. For example, the Jacksonville Electric Authority in Florida has installed a huge solar farm and is now selling solar photo-voltaic generated electricity alongside coal-burning traditionally generated power.