Since the beginning of time, the sun has provided the earth with heat and light. And with advances in physics and economics, the types of solar power that we can harness is getting more efficient and cheaper.
Solar power can be categorized as passive heating, active heating or as electrical generation. Passive heating means that solar energy is utilized without any moving devices (i.e. walls & windows). Active solar heating means that mechanical devices such as fans or pumps are used to exploit this radiant energy. The third type of solar power uses devices to generate electricity.
The way buildings are designed and constructed can greatly influence how sunshine can be used to heat and light an indoor space. To heat a home, walls and windows can be strategically placed with a southern exposure to allow as much natural heat and light into the interior. The system is passive since only the natural convection current of air is used to move the heat around.
Active solar power systems are useful for solar home heating. These systems can be constructed by adding a mechanical device to help distribute the heat. Solar collectors which use air or water can be made more efficient by simply pumping more of the heat-transfer fluid though the system and moving the energy to other indoor spaces.
Active solar power systems require energy input to drive the pump, but if a large solar collector is used, more free energy will be gathered than what is used to drive the system.
Solar panels convert sunlight directly to electricity. But most people don't realize that the sun is also responsible for other means of electrical generation as well.
Hydro-dams are reservoirs that store large amounts of potential energy in water. The streams and river carry rain and melted snow into these man-made lakes. But the origin of the precipitation is from clouds and weather systems which are created by evaporating water.
Likewise, wind energy also has its origin from the sun. Convection currents cause warm air to rise and cooler air to fill its place. This airflow is what we know as wind. The sun is also responsible for creating large high and low pressure systems across the continents and this is what causes wind during the night.
The sun is responsible for many types of solar power and it's up to the creativity and imagination of humans to learn how to harness, store and use it to our advantage.