Earth Science

Natural Resources

Solar Power

Study Tip
Remember that the vast majority of the energy we use comes from the Sun – either directly or indirectly. Thus, solar energy is one of the most environmentally favorable energy resources available.

Solar Energy

  • Energy from the Sun 2 hydrogen atoms fusing together to create a helium atom
  • Nuclear fusion on the Sun releases tremendous amounts of solar energy
  • Energy travels to the Earth mostly as visible light
  • Light carries energy through space as radiation
Study Tip
Remember that the vast majority of the energy we use comes from the Sun – either directly or indirectly. Thus, solar energy is one of the most environmentally favorable energy resources available.
Study Tip
The same way a person may cast a shadow over another person when they stand under the sun, planets or celestial bodies that have aligned themselves cast shadows over one another as well.
  • Unlike energy from fossil fuels, solar power can be harnessed locally
  • Scientists and engineers are actively researching new ways to harness energy from the Sun more efficiently
  • Solar power plants
  • Use a large group of mirrors to focus sunlight on one place, called a receiver
  • A liquid, such as oil or water, flows through receiver and is heated to a high temperature by the focused sunlight
  • Heated liquid transfers its heat to a nearby object through conduction
  • Energy conducted by the heated liquid is used to make electricity
Solar panels
Solar panels supply power to the International Space Station.
  • Solar energy has many benefits:
  • Extremely abundant, widespread, and will never run out
  • Widespread use of solar power also has some disadvantages:
  • Sunlight must be present; solar power is not useful in locations that are cloudy or dark. Storage technology is currently being developed
  • Technology needed for solar power is expensive
  • Solar panels require a lot of space, but solar panels can be placed on any rooftop to supply at least some of the power required for a home or business
solar power plant
This solar power plant uses mirrors to focus sunlight on the tower in the center. The sunlight heats a liquid inside the tower to a very high temperature, producing energy to make electricity.
Concept Check
  • How is solar power collected on a large scale?
  • What are some of the downsides of depending on solar energy?
  • What are some of the positive sides of using solar energy?