Ways we use solar energy

The warm feeling we get from standing under the Sun is just one way we use solar energy. But there are ways we can store the Sun's energy so we can use it later.

Passive solar

When we talk about using Passive solar energy, we mean using the Sun for light and heat. Sunlight can warm rooms in winter; dry your clothes or dry fruits like apples, apricots and sultanas.

When a new house is designed, it helps to think about passive solar energy so that less electricity is used. Placing windows facing the morning Sun and putting doors and vents in the right spot can all help to reduce the amount of electricity we use for lights and heating.

Thermal solar

This involves collecting heat from the Sun and storing it for later use. The most common uses are for hot water and home heating.

A typical solar hot water unit works by storing water in copper pipes on your roof. The sun heats the copper pipes, which in turn heats the water. This heated water is stored until you’re ready for a hot shower at the end of the day! 

Photovoltaic (PV) solar

You may have seen solar panels on the roof of a house or seen pictures of solar panels on cars. When we capture the Sun's energy using solar panels, this is Photovoltaic or PV solar. 

Solar panels work by using the sun's light to make electricity. Each solar panel is made up of many small solar cells and when the light of the sun hits those cells, an electric current is made or electricity.

A simple and easy to understand animated video which explains how solar energy panels work.

Facts about solar

The Sun is a fantastic source of energy and won’t run out any time soon. In fact, it will last billions of years. 

People have always used the Sun as a source of energy – to warm themselves, grow crops, and to dry things like clothes and food.

Would you believe that PV solar technology was first used on a Russian satellite in 1957 to provide power while it was in space?

Environmental factors such as the weather, time of year and location all influence the amount of sunlight available, but solar energy can be collected at any time of the year.

In just five years the number of Australian solar PV systems went from 8,000 to 1,000,000

Wrap up

1

Solar energy is renewable and essential to life.

2

Passive solar energy is energy we use directly by putting ourselves or other objects in the direct path of the sun’s warming rays. 

3

Thermal solar energy is energy we collect and store for later. We use the solar energy for hot water and heating for our homes. 

4

Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy is energy we convert into electricity to power the many appliances we use in our homes or places of work.