Solar4Scholars: Energy

Every living thing uses energy all the time

This is true of people, plants, animals, insects, microscopic organisms - everything. And this is true of you. Even as you sleep, your body is consuming its stored food energy to keep you alive. That's why you wake up hungry.

What is energy?

Energy is defined as "the ability to do work." Energy comes in many different forms: heat, light, mechanical, electrical, chemical and nuclear. There are two basic types of energy: working (kinetic) energy and stored (potential) energy.

Energy that we use to heat our homes and power our vehicles (and more) comes from two kinds of sources: renewable and non-renewable.

Energy and Power: Energy = Power x Time

Electrical power is measured in watts (W), kilowatts (kW), megawatts (MW), etc. Power is defined as energy transfer per unit of time. Power can be measured at any point in time.

On the other hand, energy is measured over a period of time. In electricity usage, energy is most commonly measured in kilowatt hours.

In solar energy systems, a solar panel may be 50 watts. This is a measure of power. At peak capacity, the system may produce close to 50 watts in an hour, or 50 watt hours of energy.

What is the solar connection?

Solar energy buffs will tell you that all of our energy comes from the sun. The sun gives light energy to plants. Heat from the sun causes matter to decay so that it becomes oil (in a long time). The sun's heating action causes wind and the hydrologic cycle necessary for hydro-electric power. Without the sun, all life on earth would die almost immediately.

To learn more about energy, electricity and power, you should consult The Solar Guide's pages on:

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