Fossil fuels emit large amounts of carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, the main human activity that emits CO2 is the combustion of oil, coal, and natural gases for energy and transportation. Alternative energy sources such as solar power do not produce CO2 emissions. Solar thermal uses the sun to provide heat, and in turn inverts that heat into chemical fuels or electricity that can be transported and used elsewhere.
In the illustration above, the first step is solar panels converting the sun’s energy into electricity, and then a control device transforms this electricity, enabling it to power electrical devices. Electricity then passes through a breaker box to outlets in the home. Items such as a refrigerator or lamp can plug into the outlets for power.
How much solar power do we have? Let’s do the math. There are 100 watts of solar energy per square foot. If we assume 12 hours of sunlight per day, this equals to 438,000 watt-hours per square foot per year. There are 27,878,400 square feet per mile, making the sun’s power at 12.2 trillion Watt-hours per square mile per year.
Other factors to consider while estimating the amount of energy the sun produces are angle of sunlight, time of the day, and geographical location.
If more solar farms are built across the nation and more homes are equipped with solar panels, we can free ourselves from the dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas. Most homeowners cringe at the steep prices for the technology that goes into solar panels, but in the long run, it can save money and reduce the impact of stripping Earth of natural resources.
Best part, sunlight is free.
Title Department Program Manager