The natural world has used the sun’s energy since the beginning of time, and while there has been lots of discussion about this, the truth is that the sun is both a problem and a solution. Solar energy is an unchanging constant – a staple in Earth’s very existence. The sun may not have changed, but our understanding of it has.
We are now harnessing its energy to replace traditional methods that have taken a toll on the planet. Instead of burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, consumers can take advantage of the infinite energy of the sun to power homes, cars, and appliances. Explore these five everyday uses of solar energy to see how this resource can transform your future, not just the future.
1. Solar Transportation
Trains, trams, subways, buses, planes, and cars in many cities are all transitioning to solar power. About 28 percent of the United States annual energy consumption goes toward transporting people and goods. Ninety-two percent of the energy vehicles use comes from gasoline and diesel fuels.
The combustion of these materials emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to the trapping of greenhouse gases. Introducing solar energy into the transportation sector can help solve these environmental issues and create a brighter future for all.
Today, alternative types of vehicles exist to replace traditional oil-burning models. There are all-electric vehicles, hybrids, and vehicles that run on photovoltaic (PV) energy. PV energy comes from the sun, and is the latest innovation transforming the renewable energy sector in the U.S. Recently, the first solar-powered aircraft crossed the Pacific Ocean as a testament to the immense potential of this energy source.
In daily life, solar-powered vehicles may quickly join general transit in a city near you. Solar vehicles have finally entered international racing competitions, gaining recognition and status in areas previously untouched.
The speed of advancements in solar technologies looks promising for the transportation sector, which may soon run partially or entirely on PV energy in many cities. Transportation is a major everyday use of solar energy that could positively impact the entire world.
2. Solar Charging
Battery life is a daily nuisance in the technological world. Cell phones, tablets, smart watches, wearables – users can only go so long before they have to plug these devices into an outlet or replace the batteries.
This can make events like camping or business conferences difficult, where there isn’t 24/7 access to electricity. Solar power can give consumers a source of constant personal solar energy to charge devices without the need for electricity.
Imagine leaving the house without thinking twice about what battery percentage your phone or other device is on. It wouldn’t matter, because you can charge your device portably using solar technology.
Solar-powered chargers like the Fuse 6W, Solartab, and JOOS Orange harness the sun’s PV energy to charge electronic devices anywhere, anytime. Whether you’re roughing it in the deep wilderness or spending 12 hours at a convention center, you can enjoy seamless battery life with solar energy – all while reducing your carbon footprint.
3. Solar Heating
Solar power is an excellent tool for heating and cooling, but the sun’s heating capacities are especially versatile. Solar thermal collectors allow people to harness PV for thermal, or heat, energy.
Instead of collecting the sun’s energy for electricity, thermal devices gather heat from sunlight to increase the temperature of a component. Solar can heat water and other fluids in collection pipes, transforming it into a usable heat source. Several solar-powered appliances exist on the market that make use of the sun’s thermal energy, including:
- Solar rooms
- Solar water heaters
- Solar space heaters
- Solar-heated pools and hot tubs
- Solar-powered washing machines
- Portable solar showers
- Solar ovens and grills
- Turbines and generators using hot, pressurized steam
- Thermal collectors for agricultural use
Many applications use solar thermal energy in conjunction with traditional gas or electric applications. For example, a solar residential heating system will use thermal energy to heat the home whenever possible, but fall back on an electric or gas connection when thermal energy isn’t enough to achieve desired temperatures (e.g., if the weather is cloudy or especially cold). The marriage between solar and traditional energies in a heating capacity can lower electric bills and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment.
4. Solar Lighting
Solar-powered lights have cropped up in thousands of cities around the U.S. Solar power is an easy, affordable, and efficient way to power streetlamps, exterior lights, string lights, landscape lighting, and other lights.
Solar lights do not require complex setups or electricity hookups. They can exist in the middle of nowhere without the need to run miles of expensive wire. They are cost-effective and reduce the risk of interruptions due to a poor connection.
Lighting is one of the most marketable means of using solar energy, as products are affordable for most of the population. If you thought solar energy was out of your price range, think again.
Googling “solar lights” will come up with dozens of hits on solar light bulbs, lanterns, string lights, and more with prices as low as $5. Consider trading some of your traditional lights for solar, and experience the perks of this renewable energy yourself.
5. Solar Electricity
Last but certainly not least, solar energy is a source of daily electricity. Residential and commercial buildings can use PV panels on the roof or lawn to capture the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity.
A home or business can use solar electricity as it would typical energy – for lights, appliances, computers, data centers, machinery, and more. A roof system with PV panels is often enough to achieve significant utility bill savings and secure an energy-independent, wealth-building future.
Solar power is a clean, renewable, and reliable form of energy. It does not depend on the burning of coal, gas, or oil. It does not sap the Earth of important resources or send harmful toxins into the atmosphere. It simply makes use of an endless store of energy the sun makes available to us every day.
Using solar energy for transportation, battery charging, heating, lighting, or electricity can reduce monthly bills, help save the environment, and put you in control of your energy prices for years to come. Investing in solar is investing in the future.
About the Author
Massy Almubidin is a solar expert and owner at IntegrateSun, providing solar panel installation for Houston-area homes and businesses.