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Solar energy comes from rays of the sun (solar radiation) reaching our planet Earth. When the sky is cloudy and even when it's raining, there is still solar energy reaching Earth, but that energy is much stronger on a sunny day. With different kinds of devices and equipment, people can then take that solar energy and turn it into energy that can, for example, heat a house when it's cold outside, or into energy that can turn on lights or heat the water you'll use when you take a shower, and even to heat up the fluids that a certain kind of engine needs so that it can work and make electricity. Have you ever used a calculator that doesn't need batteries? Notice the small squares on it. If covered by your hand for example, the calculator no longer displays any numbers. Those squares are solar panels.
When people take solar radiation and turn it into electricity, that is what's called Photovoltaics. The next time you ride in the car with your parents, look at the roofs of people's homes. When a home is using solar energy, there will be something extra on its roof that faces the sun. Most likely, what you're seeing are much larger versions of the squares like those on a solar-powered calculator. The solar panels you see on a rooftop are made up of many, many photovoltaic, or PV, cells which collect solar energy.
While the equipment needed for a solar powered system costs money, the actual solar energy from the sun costs nothing. So, when using solar power instead of electricity, electricity bills will be lower, thus saving people money. If you've heard the term "carbon footprint," solar power is "cleaner" than electricity because electricity gives off carbon, which is harmful to our atmosphere. We won't leave a carbon footprint behind when we use solar power. The following will explain what solar power is and how it is used in the home, and will provide student and teacher materials on solar power.
Solar Power Information
Energy Efficiency & Solar Power in the Home
Solar Power Experiments and Activities for Kids
Solar Power Materials for Teachers