Is Solar Energy Renewable
In common terms, solar energy is considered to be a green, renewable energy source. Solar
energy is power in the form of heat generated from the sun.
However, the argument can be made that there is no such thing as a renewable energy source.
The Lay of Conservation of Energy states that "energy is neither created nor destroyed". Energy is only
converted from one form to another.
This means that all the energy the universe will ever have, already exist. I had this
discussion with a friend the other day. I argued that the sun continually generates energy. In reality
though, it's only converting energy from one form to another.
After a few minutes of this debate I realized it didn't really matter, and for my purposes, solar
energy is a renewable source.
Every location on Earth receives sunlight at least part of the year. The amount of solar radiation that reaches
any one spot on the Earth's surface varies according to:
- Geographic location
- Time of day
- Local landscape
- Local weather.
Because the Earth is round, the sun strikes the surface at different angles, ranging from 0° (just above the
horizon) to 90° (directly overhead). When the sun's rays are vertical, the Earth's surface gets all the energy
possible. The more slanted the sun's rays are, the longer they travel through the atmosphere, becoming more
scattered and diffuse. Because the Earth is round, the frigid polar regions never get a high sun, and because of
the tilted axis of rotation, these areas receive no sun at all during part of the year.
The Earth revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit and is closer to the sun during part of
the year. When the sun is nearer the Earth, the Earth's surface receives a little more solar
energy. The Earth is nearer the sun when it is summer in the southern hemisphere and winter in the
northern hemisphere. However, the presence of vast oceans moderates the hotter summers and colder
winters one would expect to see in the southern hemisphere as a result of this difference.
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