Solar Energy

Solar energy Without the sun, there would be no human or plant life on earth. A huge amount of solar energy falls on the earth each day. As much solar energy reaches the surface of the planet in one hour as the world's population uses in a year. Over 2,000 years ago the Greeks designed whole towns on south facing hillsides to use solar energy for winter heating because they were running so short of firewood.
Solar power - the heat and light from the sun - can be used to meet energy needs even in cloudy Britain.

There are three main ways of gathering energy from the sun: Passive Solar Gain
On average buildings in Britain get 14% of their heating from the sun without being specifically designed to do so. This is from heat coming through windows and walls. Buildings receive more sun in the summer and where they face south.

In order to maximise solar gain, new buildings are often planned so that the rooms people spend most time in face south while windows which face north are smaller. Buildings can also be built using materials which are good at holding on to the sun's heat.

This house has been designed using Passive Solar Gain, Solar Hot Water and Photovoltaics This house has been designed using Passive Solar Gain, Solar Hot Water and Photovoltaics.

Solar Water Heating
In Britain, up to 50% of a building's hot water requirements can be heated by the sun. There are currently about 40,000 buildings in Britain with solar water heating systems. Up to 50% of houses in the UK are suitably placed to make it worthwhile installing solar water heating.

Solar water panels (also known as collectors) can be fitted to the roof of a building. The heat of the sun warms water or another fluid passing through the panel. This warmed fluid then passes through pipes in the hot water cylinder to pass on its heat to the hot water used directly by the household. More information

Photovoltaic Panels
Solar energy can also be harnessed using photovoltaic or PV cells to use light from the sun to make electricity (photovoltaic means 'voltage from light'). Originally developed for use in space programmes, photovoltaic cells are now becoming more widely used to provide electricity.

A 1992 government report concluded that photovoltaics could produce about a quarter of the electricity currently consumed in Britain. Many pocket calculators are powered by PV cells. They can also be found in all sorts of unlikely places - remote phone boxes, buoys at sea and some CCTV cameras. More information

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