Ways we use solar energy

Passive solar

This involves using the Sun for light and heat. Sunlight can warm rooms in winter, dry your clothes, or sun-dry fruits like apples, apricots and sultanas.

Often, new houses are designed to take advantage of passive solar energy. That means thinking about building north-facing windows to use sunshine in winter or installing insulation to reduce heat loss.

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.

In a typical solar hot water unit, water is stored 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

This involves using solar cells connected in a solar panel to capture the Sun’s energy and convert it into an electrical current. Many homes and businesses now have solar panels on their roofs. 

Here’s how it works: an inverter is connected to the solar panels to convert the solar energy to electricity. Then a two-way electricity meter or power box sends electricity into your home and any un-used power from the solar panels can feed back into the electricity grid.

This animated video explains solar power.

Facts about solar

The Sun is a fantastic source of energy. It is clean, sustainable and 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 harnessed at any time of the year.

This video shows how solar energy is converted to electricity in different ways.

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 and businesses.