Radiant light and heat from the sun, has been harnessed by humans since ancient times using a range of technologies. Solar energy technologies include solar heating, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal electricity and solar architecture, which can make considerable contributions to solving some of the most urgent energy problems. Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute solar energy. Solar energy can be harnessed at different levels around the world, mostly depending on distance from the equator.
° Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors to harness the energy.
° Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.
Uses: architecture and urban planning, agriculture and horticulture, water heating, heating, cooling and ventilation, water treatment, cooking, process heat, solar vehicles…
The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth’s non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined.
Seville, Spain, is the first European commercial solar power station, called PS10. With a 980 metres high concrete tower surrounded by fotovoltaic fields of 624 solarpanels and giving electricity to over 60,000 homes.
Sources: wikipedia.com, inhabitat.com, humanevents.com