Summer is coming and the sun is strongly back in Italy! That’s all what you need to replenish yourself of vitamin D and energy levels while soaking up the sun from the beach, your balcony or your office window.
If sometimes the sun is so strong that we just want to stay locked up at home with the air conditioning to the maximum all day, we know that it is not very ecological and that leads to overconsumption of electricity… But what if our air conditioner could just be itself powered by the sun?
Being notably at the origin of winds, water cycle and photosynthesis, solar energy is already essential for all life on Earth. In addition to this, we also discovered that this energy was a non-polluting, readily available and renewable source that could be used to generate electricity.
Solar energy comes from nuclear fusion that occurs in the center of the Sun and travels through the solar system in the form of electromagnetic radiation. It was firstly used by humans during Antiquity, when the Greeks light the Olympic flame thanks to a system of mirrors concentrating the rays of the Sun.
We know today that its use can be multiple and that solar energy can make possible to manufacture electricity from photovoltaic panels or solar thermal plants thanks to sunlight captured by solar panels.
Solar energy works differently depending on the type of panels installed. Firstly, the solar panels, or thermal panels, are absorbing energy
from the sun and turn it into heat. It is used to have domestic hot water and for some cases of domestic heating.
On the other hand, photovoltaic solar panels are used to create electricity. Composed of photovoltaic cells, they capture the sun’s rays and release photons which move and then produce an electric current.
This production of electricity by solar energy can then be part of the solutions to support our energy transition and respond to global ecological challenges.
Indeed, solar energy is caracterised as a “green” energy. It produces only a small amount of pollutants and its transformation process does not impact our environment.
However, its impact is not neutral during the stages of manufacturing, installing, transporting and recycling infrastructure. The materials used in the construction process such as aluminum, lead, and the manufacture of silicon, which is a component of photovoltaic cells, increase the energy balance of the solar energy.
Nevertheless, research is helping to improve this technology in order to limit its impact, which remains less high compared to fossil fuels, and above all more sustainable.