Use of solar energy, energy derived from the sun, has grown in popularity amid economic and environmental concerns about nonrenewable sources of energy. Solar energy offers a cleaner, fully renewable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. As use of solar energy increases, the cost of solar energy declines, leading to new commercial and consumer applications.
Making Water Available:
The need for safe, clean water remains dire in many parts of the world. In countries where villages are long distances from available water sources, solar energy powers water pumps that deliver water to remote residential areas. Water pumped via solar energy also irrigates crops and brings water to livestock. Solar energy can purify water by removing salt and other impurities, making it safe for drinking, cooking and other uses.
Heating and Cooling
Some households harness the sun's rays via solar energy panels to provide a portion of the household's heating and cooling needs. When 100 percent of the household's needs are met via solar power, that household is considered "off the grid"; that is, no longer dependent upon the area's electrical grid. Solar energy also heats water, both inside and outside of homes. Heating swimming pools via solar radiation ranks first among U.S. households in solar energy applications.
Cooling via solar energy costs much more than heating, as the energy is used to convert a contained liquid into a gas, then force it into a low-pressure situation, thus reducing its temperature. The cost of this process makes it prohibitive. Thus, solar cooling is rarely used in consumer applications.
Converting Radiation to Power
Radiation collected and converted to electricity can power everything from small appliances to entire households or businesses. Large-scale communications systems, such as satellite systems and television stations, often rely on solar energy for part or all of their power.
Other Solar Energy Uses
With increasingly interest in vehicles powered by something other than petroleum, solar energy offers an alternative fuel source. Some electric and hybrid cars, buses and other modes of transportation utilize energy derived from photovoltaic cells.
Today, consumer applications go beyond small appliances like garden lights, hair dryers and calculators to larger, more energy-intensive processes, like drying clothes and cooking. Solar energy dries fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and other foods for increased quality and nutrition.
Originally posted on ehow