One of the most popular forms of renewable energy is solar power, where energy from the sun is harnessed for a particular use.
The most common method is solar panels which convert light energy from the sun into electricity needed to power machinery and equipment. Generating electricity in this manner means that the equivalent amount is not needed to be produced from a power station which burns fossil fuels such as coal or oil, and which would emit harmful emissions like carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. The more energy which can be generated through a "clean", renewable source such as solar power the better it is for the environment.
Solar power does not just have to refer to electricity generation though. As well as light energy, the sun also radiates heat energy which can be used for heating and certain other actions such as evaporating water from salt pans or drying out fish for storage. The natural energy of the sun has been utilised in this way by mankind for thousands of years.
Despite humans putting to good use the energy of the sun for thousands of years, it also plays a significant role in our future thanks to the ability to turn the sun's energy into electricity. In fact this role is increasing in significance thanks to the dwindling supplies of fossil fuels remaining and the understanding that toxic emission levels must be reduced soon to slow down the detrimental impact upon the planet and the climate. As a result, solar power and renewable energy is a key component of any environmental education course or programme that is provided either for individuals or employees in businesses.
Limitations of Solar Power
One of the biggest downsides of solar power is that it requires the sun to be shining, which means at night it will be useless and on cloudy days the amount of energy absorbed will be severely reduced. Also, the generation of electricity in a useful amount from sunlight requires large photovoltaic panels to be installed which are not only expensive, but can look unsightly and spoil the aesthetics of a building or location. As with other forms of renewable energy, the initial cost of construction can be prohibitive and dissuade many homes and businesses from installing solar panels and taking advantage of solar energy.