We have tapped into Mother Nature for centuries to provide us with energy, as well as help us with tasks such as using the sun to dry clothes, or the wind generating a water pump, or even using oxen to run a gin mill; all of these are products of producing natural energy. Solar power is no different, except that it uses modern technology to tap further into one of Mother Nature's resources: the sun. How is solar energy used?
The energy the sun produces through solar generation provides solar energy to many things. Solar power provides energy to give heat and to warm water; to treat water, power dryers, cool a home, drive a car, and many more things. Mother Nature truly has provided us with a powerful resource in solar power.
The Greeks and the Chinese were the first to tap into using the sun positioning when determining how and where they would build a house or building. They would build south-facing to utilize the sun's resources for lighting and warmth. This is referred to as passive solar architecture. Other considerations taken into passive solar architecture are structure height, selective shading for cooling, and the natural heat source, the sun. Modern passive solar architecture utilizes computers to do the layout that best utilizes Mother Nature's finest as well as incorporating solar lighting, heating, ventilation, solar powered pumps and fans, and solar roof tiles to help capture the power of the sun.
In green houses, the glass panels work as a natural generator for warmth, optimizing plant growth and allowing year-round growth - a huge benefit to the horticulture field. In the agriculture field, solar energy is used for pumping water for crops, drying crops, brooding chickens, drying manure and powering grape presses.
Solar lighting is actively used in many household applications, including solar powered garden lights, Christmas lights, lights on deck posts, streetlights, lighted signs and billboards to name a few examples.
Commonly used in residential homes, solar home heating is used to help offset the cost of traditional energy bills.
Solar has been being actively used in water treatment plants to disinfect water, water stabilization, and to treat wastewater without the use of chemicals or electricity.
Cooking has been done by solar energy from dehydration to running a electric stove. Dehydrating food has been done for centuries, simply by laying out strips of food and letting the sun naturally dry them. Learning how to cook with solar power is a useful outdoor skill to have.
Provides process heat for commercial and industrial applications.
Probably the most well known of the solar energy-providing spectrum, powering anything from a small desk calculator to powering a whole household with the use of solar panels.
Since the 1980s, solar power has been creeping into the automobile industry. At the time of writing, the solar cars that are on the market today use solar power when in an idle state or for auxiliary items such as the radio - but technological advances will eventually create more viable solar-powered vehicles. There are also forms of solar power utilized in boats, planes, RVs, and even spacecraft.
Solar power is not as new or recent as sometimes made out to be; it's not a form of power that's widely embraced yet because of a number of issues - cost being one of the largest issues that put it out of reach of the average homeowner. However, as technology advances and people become more aware of what solar power can do, it's sure to continue to grow in popularity.