Skip to content
Solar Energy – What is Solar Power And How Does It Work?

Solar Energy – What is Solar Power And How Does It Work?

What exactly is solar energy? If you want to answer this question and literally shed some light on the matter, you've come to the right place! The sun has been providing us with light and warmth for billions of years - and thus makes life on our planet possible. This powerful, environmentally friendly source of energy is available to us in infinite quantities and can be used in a wide variety of ways.

Particularly in the wake of the global energy transition and the need for renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, the power of the sun's rays is finally getting the attention it deserves. But how does this actually work with photovoltaic systems? And what else can we as consumers do to harness the benefits of solar power for ourselves?

In this article, I would like to give you everything you need to know about solar energy - from its definition and history, advantages and disadvantages and the technology, to the possible uses and future prospects. Let's go!

You can find a brief overview here in advance:

  1. Definition
  2. History
  3. Advantages and disadvantages
  4. Technology
  5. Use
  6. Closing words

Definition: What is solar energy actually?

Solar energy (often referred to as solar power, solar energy or solar power) is the Solar radiation energywhich is produced inside the sun through nuclear fusion, radiates to the earth and can be used by us humans, primarily in the form of electricity or heat.

This is a Natural and renewable energy sourcewhich has existed for billions of years and is what makes life on our planet possible in the first place. Plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into energy - and animals and humans use the sun's rays to produce vital energy. Vitamin D produce.

In technical terms, however, the term "solar energy" refers primarily to the Methods and technologieswhich were developed by humans to convert electromagnetic radiation into usable forms of energy, such as electricity or heat.

At the heart of the further development of solar energy is above all the goal of achieving a clean, environmentally friendly and sustainable energy source to meet mankind's increasing energy needs in the future while at the same time reducing the serious environmental impacts (especially the climate change) by conventional, finite energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas.

History: How long has solar energy been used?

What is the history of solar energy and how long have we been using it?

In the next step, I would like to take a brief look at the history of solar power, which begins at least as early as 1839. Here I have listed the sequence of some of the most important events with the respective year:

  • 1839: The French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovers the photoelectric effect.
  • 1883: U.S. inventor Charles E. Fritts builds the first working solar cell.
  • 1905: Albert Einstein proves and explains the photoelectric effect. He recognized that light has particles that can transfer energy to other particles.
  • 1954: The former research department of the telephone company AT&T, Bell Laboratories, develops a Silicon based solar cell.
  • 1958: In March, the fourth satellite, Vanguard-1, is launched into orbit. It is the first space satellite to operate on electricity from solar cells.
  • 1990: Solar research and photovoltaic systems in Germany are boosted by nuclear accidents and the oil crisis. specifically promoted.
  • 2000: The "Renewable Energy Sources Act" enters into force in order to promote the expansion of solar energy and further renewable energies massively accelerate.
  • 2022: Baden-Württemberg is the first major federal state to introduce mandatory solar energy for new residential buildings.

But the story of solar energy is far from over, on the contrary: it is just beginning. Today, it is one of the largest supply sectors of the future and a crucial piece of the puzzle for a sustainable energy supply. sustainable lifestyle.

Advantages and disadvantages: Why is solar energy used and what are the arguments against it?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy?

In 2022, around 11% of the electricity fed into the grid in Germany was generated by PV systems. And the share of photovoltaics in gross electricity generation in Germany continues to increase every year.₁

But what exactly are the advantages? And does the latest solar energy technology also have disadvantages? In the following I would like to give you a small overview provide

Advantages of solar energy

  1. Environmental friendlinessSolar energy is a clean and emission-free source of energy. The production of solar power does not produce any pollutants or climate-damaging greenhouse gases, which not only slows down climate change, but also protects the environment. Air pollution reduced can be.
  2. InexhaustibilitySolar energy, unlike fossil fuels, is a renewable energy source. As long as the sun shines, we humans can always use it.
  3. Cost savings: After the initial investment, consumers can significantly reduce their electricity bills in the long term with the help of solar power systems. In addition, owners of a PV system benefit from tax breaks and government subsidies in many countries.
  4. Revenue Source: Owners of large solar installations can earn money by feeding the electricity into the grid and Sell photovoltaic systemFor example, when a real estate sale or a new investment is pending.
  5. IndependenceConsumers who use and store solar energy reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and are therefore better protected against rising electricity prices. In the same way, countries like Germany are also less dependent on energy imports from third countries.
  6. ReliabilitySolar systems provide reliable electricity and - compared to other energy generation systems - require relatively little maintenance, which naturally also reduces running costs.

The list of benefits is much longer. For example, the solar industry also creates many new jobs in the areas of research, development, installation and maintenance - and enables further efficiency increases and cost reductions in the future.

Disadvantages of solar energy

  1. Initial investmentThe biggest point of criticism is certainly the high purchase costs of a photovoltaic system. However, the expensive purchase of solar panels can be avoided by renting the technology, for example.
  2. Weather dependencyThe amount of electricity generated naturally always varies with the weather and the time of year. Accordingly, less solar energy is produced on cloudy or rainy days. However, the fact that solar energy can now be stored very well counteracts this problem.
  3. Long payback periodDespite falling prices, the investment in a PV system pays for itself on average after around 9-10 years.₂ However, as it reliably supplies electricity for 25 years or even longer, it is generally a good investment.
  4. Business registration: Anyone operating a photovoltaic system in Germany may have to register a commercial activity. This means that making a profit from solar energy on your own roof can involve a lot of bureaucracy - but it is usually worth it.

Of course, there are also a few other disadvantages here, such as the decreasing performance over time. However, as technology is constantly evolving, this problem can be counteracted further in the future.

Technology: How does solar energy actually work, simply explained?

How does solar energy work from a technical point of view?

Solar energy uses the sun's radiant energy both to generate electricity through Photovoltaicsas well as to generate heat for hot water through Solar thermal to generate.

Photovoltaics uses solar cells that convert sunlight directly into electrical energy. When photons (microscopically small energy carriers from sunlight) hit the front of a solar cell, they release Electrons in motionwhich then generates electrical power. Solar modules or panels ultimately connect several of these solar cells in series.

At the Solar thermal the energy of the sun's rays is captured by an absorber in the solar collectors and converted into thermal energy to heat water or another medium. The thermal energy can then be used with the help of heat exchangers, for example, to heat water for drinking water and for the heating system. sustainable heating of the apartment or house can be used.

Use: How can you benefit from solar energy in everyday life?

Use solar energy through green power and solar panels

We consumers are faced with Many different options ready to use the advantages of solar energy in everyday life and thus actively contribute to a sustainable energy supply.

The easiest way is certainly (if you haven't already done so) the 5-minute Switch to a green electricity provider. More and more companies are offering rates that completely on electricity from renewable sourcesincluding solar energy.

Apart from this, there are now also, for example Solar chargers for cell phones and other small electrical appliances. In addition Solar outdoor lights can be used for gardens or terraces, storing solar energy during the day and providing light at night. Solar-powered water pumps and cars, solar ovens or decorative Solar preserving jars are just some of the other ways in which solar energy can be used in everyday life.

If you want to go one step further, you can not only use solar energy, but also generate it using the aforementioned Photovoltaic system on your own roof. This not only allows you to charge your electric car and cover your own electricity needs, but also to feed surplus energy into the grid at a profit. In addition, consumers with Solar thermal systems capture the sun's heat and use it to heat water or support the heating system.

Tip: Sometimes the roof surface is not suitable for a PV system. Fortunately, solar panels can also be installed on the side of the balcony railing. What other tips do you have for the best possible Sustainable balcony in the linked blog post.

Solar energy - harnessing the infinite power of the sun for a more sustainable way of life

The sun is the largest natural source of energy on our planet! The inexhaustible reservoir of solar power has the potential to provide us with a sustainable source of energy in the long term and end the era of fossil fuels once and for all.

By becoming more aware of the benefits of solar energy and increasingly integrating the renewable energy source into our way of life, we are making a significant contribution to improving our reduce our ecological footprint. In this way, we also enable future generations - including our children and grandchildren - to enjoy a pleasant life on earth.

"When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome."

Wilma Rudolph (more at Sunshine Quotes)

Do you have any questions, ideas, would you like to share your experiences with solar energy or tips for living as fossil-free as possible? Then I look forward to your comment.

Stay sunny and environmentally friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Who save CO2 in everyday life you should switch to electricity from renewable sources such as solar energy. I'll explain what else you can do next in the linked blog article!

₁ Federal Statistical Office: Number of the Week No. 25 from June 20, 2023 - 2.6 million photovoltaic systems installed in Germany, available at [06.09.2023].

₂ N. Kumpel: The amortization of a PV system (as of 07.07.2023), available at [06.09.2023].

Coffee box Suggestions for improvement Newsletter

* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *