Solar energy, radiant light and heat from the sun, has been harnessed by humans since ancient times using a range of ever-evolving technologies. Though only a minuscule fraction of the available solar energy is used, solar radiation, along with secondary solar-powered resources such as wind and wave power, account for most of the available renewable energy on earth. In 2008, about 19% of global final energy consumption came from renewable energy (naturally replenished).
All forms of energy are expensive, but as time progresses, renewable energy generally gets cheaper, while fossil fuels get more expensive. Renewable energy technologies are declining in price for three main reasons:
1) Once the renewable infrastructure is built, the fuel is free forever. Unlike carbon-based fuels, the wind, sun and the earth itself provide fuel that is free, in amounts that are effectively limitless.
2) While fossil fuel technologies are more mature, renewable energy technologies are being rapidly improved, so innovation and ingenuity give us the ability to constantly increase the efficiency of renewable energy and continually reduce its cost.
3) Once the world makes a clear commitment to shifting toward renewable energy, the volume of production will itself sharply reduce the cost of each solar collector (panel), while adding more incentives for additional research and development to further speed up the innovation process.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, on average, if you install a solar water heating system, your water heating bills should drop 50%-80%.
Greenpeace was part of a group study that investigated the potential and future of concentrated solar power and concluded that by 2050, it could provide up to 25% of the world's energy.
Solar energy can generate all or a portion of a home's or business' heating and electrical needs.
As of 2010, the world's largest solar energy plant is operating in the Mojave desert in California and at peak production, it can generate enough power for more than 230,000 homes. The facility has more than 900,000 panels covering more than 1,500 acres.
Solar energy is a renewable energy source that does not contribute to greenhouse gasses.
According to National Geographic, the amount of energy that reaches the Earth from the sun in just one hour would be enough to meet the entire planet's energy requirements for a whole year.
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