8 Common Uses of Solar Energy and Uncommon Ones

Solar energy is one of the many initiatives the world has implemented, in an effort to build and maintain renewable and sustainable power sources. While using solar energy dates back decades ago, we still use it in two main forms: thermal and photovoltaic. The first concentrates sunlight, transforming it into heat, and applying it to a steam generator or engine to be converted into electricity. The second form of solar power produces electricity directly. We have talked about solar fuels and the innovation they bring in terms of energy, but today we will focus more on solar energy applications we all benefit from. Besides the common uses of solar energy we know of today, there are other, less known ones. Today we will look in detail at eight of the most common and uncommon uses of solar energy.

Common Uses of Solar Energy

The most common one that fully complies with the green movement is solar-powered devices, batteries, and lighting systems that activate after the sun goes down. Of course, these represent only the beginning. Let’s see common uses of solar energy that surround us every day of our lives.

1. Solar Power for Home Electricity

Once considered science-fiction, next considered a privilege of the rich, now solar panels that turn solar energy into electricity for your home are common practice. Affordable and easy to install, solar photovoltaic panels that allow your home to be as green as possible are now a handy reality.

2. Solar Power for Home Heat

Either you want to heat the water or you want to heat the entire house in the cold season, solar energy does help a lot. The technology advanced plenty in this field, allowing us to harness the power of solar light and warmth and transform them into heat, comfort, green living, and long-term energy bill savings.

3. Swimming Pool Heating

If you are into green energy and alternative energy sources, you may want to pay attention to this one. Nothing compares to enjoying your pool during those hot summer days. However, sometimes your pool water may be too cold to enjoy, and here is where solar power comes in. Some people use solar blankets that warm the water – directly through the blanket – without needing any other installations. The hi-tech version of this method is the solar hot water heating system.

4. Lightning Systems and Batteries Charging

As we said above, these are probably the most common uses of solar energy at an industrial and individual level. From the city’s streetlights to your personal garden lamps, solar power provides the energy needed to illuminate in the dark. These lights contain batteries that charge during the day as sunlight hits the solar cells. At night, a photoresistor detects the absence of light and a circuit board triggers the batteries to discharge and provide power to LED lights, which are efficient and bright.

More importantly, the same method helps people living or traveling through remote areas in the world. The solar panels generate power for devices such as emergency phone systems on the side of roads and transportation signals. Such devices function just as lamps and batteries do: they charge during the day and work all night long.

Do we have to mention solar-powered charging stations for electric cars? This is one of the uses of solar energy gaining popularity all over the world, together with the rising attractiveness of electric cars.

5. Satellite Energy

While we cannot see this with our own eyes, in the lack of some powerful telescope, we all saw it in movies or documentaries: satellites use solar panels to generate power. The solar panels are mounted on the rotating arms of the satellites, so they can always find the best angle to receive as much sunlight as possible.

Uncommon Uses of Solar Energy

Now things become even more interesting. Do not worry, though, the step from fiction to science will probably happen very soon. The following uses of solar energy are still small-scale, but they seem to become more and more popular.

1. Solar Windows

The theory is this: solar electric window technologies will allow visible light to shine through glass panels while simultaneously collecting sunlight and transforming it into electricity. We are still in the exploratory and experimental stage of this solar energy use, but there are companies out there trying to incorporate photovoltaic cells to increase the energy efficiency of commercial buildings, thus giving commercial windows a double purpose. Gaining energetic autonomy as a large building complex or headquarters due to your many windows is a dream came true for many businesses, especially the green ones.

2. Solar Powered Car Bodies

Speaking of electric cars, what do you think about incorporating solar cells into the cars’ bodies? The idea is not new. The first semi-transparent solar sunroof technology appeared in the 1980s, but it could only power the car’s ventilation system. Back in 2010, Toyota Prius featured a solar panel on its roof, but the generated electricity only helped to power the car’s climate control system. Since these achievements were not enough, car manufacturers and solar power engineers are working together to connect the solar panels on the car’s roof or bodies directly to the cars’ batteries in order to increase the efficiency and reliability of the electrical systems. Of course, you can rely on Japanese car manufacturers to push this technology forward.

3. Smart City Lights

Just like garden lamps, solar-powered city lights are widely spread all over the world and incredibly popular. However, some cities took things one step further. The Smart City San Diego Initiative represents the incorporation of smart sensors into streetlights. These hi-tech gadgets have the capacity to direct drivers to open parking spaces and help first responders during emergencies. Combining internet-linked sensors with solar-powered streetlights saves both time and money, not to mention the environment.

Wrapping up…

Not so long ago, we have presented you with unusual (and quite bizarre) alternative energy sources and experiments. Just like those new and experimental green energy methods, solar power becomes more and more attractive and technology evolves. Back in the day, the idea of harnessing sun rays on your house’s roof to turn them into electricity was a thing of wonder. Today, as solar panels’ and solar tech price lowers, while fossil fuels’ prices increase, we are bound to see even more uses of solar energy, more applications, and more out-of-the-box ideas regarding the use of sunlight.

Do you use solar energy in your everyday life? Will you consider using it in the immediate future? Tell us what you think!

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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