Solar energy is the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source available. With this tremendous potential, it is no surprise that solar is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy, and more than 5,600 solar companies currently employ people in every state. States across the country understand the promise of solar power, and California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Colorado are all leading the way in domestic solar installations.
Solar is not only clean, it is also affordable. For example, in 2011, San Antonio, Texas, discovered that solar had become so cost-effective that the city opted to scrap plans for a new coal-fired power plant and install a large-scale solar facility instead.
Solar is also a great way to create needed jobs in America. Generating power with solar creates seven times as many jobs as generating power with dirty, dangerous, and increasingly expensive fossil fuels like coal.
How Does it Work?
Solar technology allows us to capture the sun's energy in two principal ways. First, solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, which frequently sit atop buildings, convert sunlight directly into electricity. These solar panels are made of cutting-edge silicon materials similar to those used in computer chips. As light passes through the panels, it creates a current that generates electricity. This process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage) gives us the photovoltaic effect.
Second, solar thermal systems can also use the sun's heat to warm water for our businesses and homes. Large-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) systems can produce energy at a central power plant using mirrors and receivers to convert solar energy into heat. This heat can then be used to produce electricity via a steam turbine or heat engine driving a generator.