10 Fun Facts About Solar Energy

Reader Contribution by Miles Young
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Solar energy technology is here to stay. As more and more people become concerned about the environment and the risks of global warming, they seek a solution that will help protect the earth while satisfying their energy needs at the same time. In fact, solar energy use continues to climb by about 20 percent every year as an increasing number of eco-conscious people decide to transition from fossil fuels to solar power. To understand a bit more about this endless source of clean energy, take a look at the following 10 fun facts about solar energy.

1. It takes sunlight about eight minutes to reach the earth.

The sun is one million times larger than planet earth and must travel 93 million miles to reach the earth’s surface. Moving at the speed of light, sunlight takes just over eight minutes to travel this distance.

2. Solar energy is the future of alternative energy sources.

Solar energy is far better for the environment than traditional fossil fuels because it doesn’t release dangerous greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere or pollute the environment. Green energy produced by the sun is considered to be the future of alternative energy because it helps combat the greenhouse effect created by widespread use of fossil fuels.

3. Solar panels typically pay for themselves within five to 10 years.  

A residential solar installation is the only type of home improvement that pays for itself over time. Through tax incentives, subsidies and rebates, it usually takes anywhere from five to 10 years, depending on local factors, for solar panels to pay for themselves. In some states, full payback can happen much sooner than this average time frame.

4. The number of residential solar installations is expected to skyrocket.

The cost of solar energy panels has significantly decreased over the years and continues to do so. As the price of solar installations keeps going down, the number of users will continue to rise. Throughout the next decade, the number of residential solar installations in the U.S. is expected to rise by up to 40 percent.

5. The earth will never run out of solar energy.

The sun is a renewable source of energy because it will never become depleted as time passes. Fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, are not considered to be renewable energy sources because there is a finite amount of them on earth. This means they may someday become scarce or run out.

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6. Sunlight can be converted to energy through the use of PV cells.

Solar panels consist of a series of photovoltaic (PV) cells used together to convert sunlight into electricity at an atomic level. When sunlight reaches these solar panels, electrons are released so they may flow through the cells and generate an electric current.

7. The technology used to create solar energy is extremely versatile.

Solar energy technology is extremely versatile. Solar panels can be used to generate power for a broad range of devices, including calculators, buildings and even satellites in orbit.

8. Solar energy can be stored and used after dark.

Solar energy can only work at night if there is a storage device available, such as a battery, to collect and store the sun’s energy. On cloudy days, solar energy can be unreliable, so a battery backup that contains stored solar energy is often necessary.

9. Just one day of sunlight can satisfy the world’s energy needs for almost three decades.

The amount of energy consumed throughout the world over the course of 27 years equals only one full day’s worth of energy coming from the sun. This also means that the amount of solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface in just 40 minutes is equal to the world’s total yearly energy consumption.

10. The world’s fossil fuel reserves are equal to three weeks’ worth of solar energy.

Twenty days’ worth of energy produced from the sun equals all the energy contained in the earth’s reserves of oil, coal and natural gas. However, less than one percent of that solar energy is actually used to produce power.

This list of 10 impressive facts about solar energy is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the many benefits of going solar. To stay abreast of the improvements and advancements of solar technology, try resources such as Solar City or the Solar Action Alliance, among other informative sources. After all, solar energy is the future of this planet.

Miles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter