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What is Solar Energy?

Sunlight is an abundant source of renewable energy. How can we harness it?
© Adam Smith Centre

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar energy is the conversion of sunlight into usable energy forms. It is the most abundant and most renewable resource. The Earth intercepts a lot of solar power: 173 terawatts of power. That’s more than 10,000 times the energy the world needs. It is considered the most abundant source of renewable energy.

A slew of evolving technologies, including photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, solar heating are used to convert heat and light into thermal or electric energy. Solar power is considered a clean energy source because it does not produce carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gases when operating.

How is Solar Energy Harnessed?

Sunlight contains tiny packets of energy called ‘photons’. These photons radiated from the sun and later collide with the solar cells on a solar panel. This collision frees some electrons in the semiconductor material. The electrons create an electric current or electricity. The electricity created is multiplied by the number of cells in each panel, and the number of panels in each solar array. Combined, a solar array can generate a substantial amount of electricity.

© Adam Smith Centre
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Climate Change and Public Policy

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