Solar Energy: History, Chemistry, Pros and Cons

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The declining amounts of traditional sources of energy have presented humanity with the biggest challenge of inventing innovative ways to harness the power of the sun. This forms the reason as to why the conversion of solar power into high voltage electricity remains a political agenda in both developing and developed nations. This has also been precipitated by the need to find less polluting and abundant source of energy than fossil fuels. Despite the rapid growth in most economies in the entire world, the percentage of solar power in use is still very low in comparison to fossil fuels.

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History of Solar Power

The use of solar energy has been with the humanity for centuries. The first scientist to successfully harness solar energy was William Adams in 1876. “Since the 7th century B.C, indigenous people used magnifying glasses to strike sunlight into beams so that they would cause wood to catch fire” (Isa, 1). The breakthrough led to the creation of a selenium solar cell. William discovered that if he flashed light on the selenium solar cell, electric current was produced. This period recorded great success through the invention of solar boiler by Charles Greeley Abbott in 1936.

The demand in the increase of safe and sustainable energy has led to the new era in which solar energy has been adopted as one of the major sources of energy. This has also been necessitated by the dwindling sources of fossil fuels and increase in the knowledge of environmentally safe sources of energy.

The Chemistry behind Solar Energy

Nuclear fusion is the process by which the sun generates solar energy. The energy produced by the sun is called solar energy and is tapped into different types of energies through the concentration of solar power. The sun is a composition of hydrogen and helium that emits solar energy which travels from the sun to the earth’s surface at the speed of light. According to (Galbrath, 1), “during nuclear fusion, the sun’s high pressure and hot temperature causes hydrogen atoms to come apart and the nuclei to come together; four hydrogen nuclei join to become a helium atom.” This is a process achieved by a solar panel system. The system has a photovoltaic panel that contains silicone. The “solar panel is composed of mirrors that reflect and focus the sun’s rays (concentration of solar power) thus providing heat which in turn help power a generator” (SolarCompanies, 1).

Solar energy is therefore produced through intricate processes. “When the sun strikes the panel, electrons in the silicon buzz and produce a magnetic current” (SolarCompanies, 1). The wires can detect these currents and is relay them to an inverter. The sun is a nuclear plant which produces large amounts nuclear energy on our planet. The solar power is a functional power used our homes, businesses, and other places.

Advantages of Solar Energy

“The advantages of solar energy are that it the energy from the sun is practically free and the recovery/ payback period for this investment can be very short depending on how much electricity your household uses” (SolarCompanies, 1). Furthermore, most governments provide incentives to families who adopt the use of solar energy in their homes. In addition to the above, the use of solar energy attracts credit on the account of a user in cases where the installation has the capacity to produce extra solar energy which is bought by energy producing companies. “This is called net metering” (Galbrath, 1). In addition to the above, “solar energy does not require any fuel, is not affected by the supply and demand thus not affected by the ever-increasing price of gasoline” (Galbrath, 1). Furthermore, “the use of solar energy indirectly reduces health costs” (Galbrath, 1). This is because it is a clean source of energy that does not release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. According to Wyk (1), “it does not contribute to global warming, acid rain or smog and actively contributes to the decrease of harmful green house gas emissions.”

The list for support of adoption of solar energy is indeed long. It can be generated everywhere provided there is sufficient solar energy. It can therefore be used to pay up for the consumption of energy that is utility supplied. In addition to the above, SolarCompanies (1) illustrates that “It does not only reduce your electricity bill, but will also continue to supply your home/ business with electricity in the event of a power outage, can operate entirely independent, not requiring a connection to a power or gas grid at all”. It does not attract maintenance costs and lasts for decades after installation as apposed to other sources of energy. In addition to the above, its operations does not demand constant check up and the quantity of energy supplied can easily be increased by the increase in energy demands by simply adding more solar panels.

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Disadvantages of Solar Energy

“While solar energy is free, its production is very expensive in that generating power from photovoltaic panels costs more than four times as much as coal, and more than twice what wind power costs” (Galbrath, 1). Solar panels have no capacity to produce energy at night or in the absence of solar energy because of their reliance on solar energy from the sun. In addition, “the initial cost is the main disadvantage of installing a solar energy system, largely because of the high cost of the semi-conducting materials used in building one” (SolarCompanies, 1).

The high cost of solar energy makes it out of reach for most people. This is because, “as energy shortages are becoming more common, solar energy is becoming more price-competitive” (SolarCompanies, 1). Solar panels need open spaces for installation and as such are not suitable for areas that are heavily covered by dense forests. Their applications are thus limited. According to (Galbrath (1), “the production of solar energy is influenced by the presence of clouds or pollution in the air, no solar energy will be produced during night-time although a battery backup system and/or net metering will solve this problem.” Last, solar powered cars are slow in speed than the other cars powered by gasoline.


Despite the fact that the installation of solar system is more expensive that makes the overall application of this system more expensive than traditional forms of energy, it can be discerned from the discussions presented above that its advantages overweigh its disadvantages. This demonstrates the reason behind the rush by most countries to explore solar power as alternative solution to the challenges posed by the traditional sources of energy.

Works Cited

Galbrath, Kate. Solar Energy. 2010. Web.

Isa, Jacobs. What Is Solar Energy? 2006. Web.

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SolarCompanies. What is Solar Energy? 2005. Web.

Wyk, Anita. Solar Energy – Advantages Disadvantages. 2009. Web.

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