Solar Power for Kids
For as long as humans have been around, we've been relying on the sun. It gives us all the light, warmth, and energy we need to survive. It's not just us, either: All living things on Earth use the sun. In recent years, though, humanity has found another purpose for sunlight: solar power!
Solar power is a way for us to create electricity that powers all the things we use without hurting the environment. But what exactly is solar power, and how does it work?
What Is Solar Power?
Our sun is a giant ball of fiery plasma about 93 million miles away that is constantly giving off rays of energy. At 109 times the size of Earth, the sun has a lot of energy! Solar power takes some of that energy and uses it to power our homes and electronics.
Have you ever noticed how warm and nice it feels when you stand out in sunlight? That's your body absorbing the sun's energy. Solar power is kind of like that. It's a way of changing the sun's energy into usable electricity by using devices called solar panels.
Unlike other forms of electricity that come from things like burning coal and gas, solar power is clean and renewable. That means it provides our planet with an endless supply of energy and doesn't hurt our environment in any way.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels work a lot like plants. Plants use a process called photosynthesis to absorb sunlight and change it into the energy they need to grow. Solar panels do the same thing, but the energy they change sunlight into is electricity.
This is done by using things called solar cells that are built into solar panels. These cells have two layers of a material called silicon with a different conductive material between them. The top layer of silicon has lots of particles that contain electrons, which are negatively charged. When sunlight hits this silicon layer, many of these electrons are knocked loose. They then pass through the conductive material and are absorbed by the bottom layer of silicon, which has a positive charge. This creates a form of electricity known as direct current (DC).
The process doesn't end there, though. Most of our electronics don't use DC electricity; they use a different kind of electricity called alternating current (AC). To change DC into AC, the solar panel sends the newly created electricity to a device called an inverter. The inverter converts the DC electricity to AC, and it's then sent into our homes.