When answered in very basic terms, the answer to the question “What is solar energy?” is that it is energy from the sun. The sun’s radiant light and heat have been captured and utilized by humans since the ancient times. However, as technologies evolve, solar power also changes and progresses. Explaining how solar energy works is a slightly more complicated issue than defining it.
There are basically two types of solar power. These are passive and active. Each type of solar power is placed into one of these two categories. It is defined as passive or active depending upon exactly how the energy is used. Active energy tends to be stored and can be used later, while passive sources take advantage of the light without storing it. For instance, solar power that is used to create electricity through the use of thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels is considered to be active. Solar architecture techniques, on the other hand, are primarily considered to be passive. These techniques include things like designing spaces that allow for the natural circulation of air, using building materials with favorable thermal masses, or orienting buildings toward the sun.
Socrates’ Megaron House is a great example of ancient architecture that uses a passive solar design. The features on this building allowed air to circulate. This allowed the building’s occupants to enjoy a fairly comfortable range of temperatures. Modern day attempts at this type of architecture do not have to worry just about the occupants’ comfort levels. Obviously, the occupants of most contemporary buildings can be quite comfortable by using central heating or air conditioning. Instead, contemporary designers must worry about how to design a building in a manner that does not tempt its occupants to use conventional heating and cooling methods that exploit fossil fuels. Contemporary solar architecture uses features like orientation to the sun and selective shading. Then, they tailor these features to the local weather patterns in the region. By doing this, they are able to create well-lit and comfortable spaces that are not as reliant on fossil fuels. When combined with active solar features like pumps or fans, these buildings can seem amazing.
The answer to the question “What is solar energy?” is a short one. However, it is an answer that is primarily defined by how solar energy works. As technology continues to change and advance, the way that we use energy from the sun will also continue to change and advance. Ultimately, these changes will make it more widely used and more affordable to purchase and implement.