Solar Power Explained

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Energy Basics: Solar (Click to watch, 2:17)

Solar energy—power from the sun—is a vast and inexhaustible resource that can supply a significant portion of global electricity needs. In the United States, over two million households already have solar panels on their roof; utilities and companies across the country are also investing in solar farms to capture the sun’s energy at a larger scale. Solar power is essentially carbon-free. A small amount of pollution is created during the manufacturing process, and disposal is an ongoing challenge; however, the fuel used (the sun) is free, is plentiful, and doesn’t pollute. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Interesting Solar Power Facts:

  • The amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year. (Department of Energy)
  • California’s Mojave Desert is home to Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the world’s largest operating solar thermal energy plant. (Department of Energy)
  • Today, over 3% of U.S. electricity comes from solar energy, more than 36 times its share a decade ago. (Solar Energy Industries Association)
These solar panels take energy from the sun and convert it to electricity we can use. Photo by: Leo Patrizi/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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