How Is Solar Energy Sustainable? The What, Where, How and Why of Solar Energy

Nov 30, 2022 | Sustainability

What Is Solar Power? 

Even though it’s 93 million miles away, this gigantic power source has so much free energy to give! Our sun provides enough sunlight to power the whole world’s energy needs for a year…every 90 minutes. What’s more, this energy is free and plentiful as long as you live in a part of the world where the sun shines. That’s brilliant news for all of us on this planet.  

The Origin of Solar Power 

Nearly 3,000 years ago, the Chinese designed concave mirrors that they could hold to reflect the sun onto a certain mark. On sunny days, they were able to focus enough heat to spark a fire. These Yangsui bronze mirrors are the first-known tools used to tap into the vast power of our solar system.  

Today, campers and survivalists use the sun to cook food, heat water and even to disinfect clothing. One person using the sun for fire-starting or chores sounds great. But the real question is how does solar power work at scale? 

Two Types of Solar Energy Production 

The sun’s light is full of electromagnetic radiation. In order to harness this free source of energy for electricity, we have two choices: Follow the lead of the Ancient Chinese and use mirrors that concentrate solar radiation or use photovoltaic (PV) panels to trigger electricity. 

  • Mirror systems reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. This is called Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power or CSP. The heat is either used to produce electricity or stored in thermal storage batteries. 
  • PV panels have specially designed cells that absorb energy from sunlight. This energy creates electrical charges that cause electricity to flow when they connect with the internal electrical field in the PV cells. 

Of course, it takes strong infrastructure to be able to integrate harnessed energy into existing electrical grids, homes and businesses. But once that’s in place with a mixture of traditional and renewable energy sources, we can use the sun for the unforeseeable future! 

Why Is Solar Power Good for the Environment? 

  • Solar represents a FREE energy source as long as the sun is on. J And if it turns off, well, we won’t need energy anymore… 
  • Solar is clean and environmentally friendly. 
  • Solar power supports a strong electrical grid and helps lower the cost of electricity. 
  • When stored, solar power generates back-up power for nighttime use and any outages. 

So is solar power sustainable? In a nutshell, solar power is efficient and highly sustainable as long as panels and inverters function properly. 

How Does Solar Energy Work? 

Let’s take a closer look at how we use solar power harnessed with PV panels. 

  1. Sunshine hits the panels on a rooftop or at a solar farm and is converted to direct current (DC) electricity.  
  2. An inverter takes this DC electricity and converts it into 240 volt alternating current (AC) power that works with appliances and other equipment. 
  3. This new AC juice passes through a switch that can disconnect the power (in case of emergency). 
  4. This solar power joins the power into your home or business at the fuse box. 
  5. An import/export meter (installed with the panels) allows you to export unused power to your community grid for credit against your power bill.

Where Does Solar Power Happen?

Solar energy is also growing internationally as countries embrace this clean, renewable energy source and put in the infrastructure to make it work. According to www.eia.gov, the top 5 countries where solar energy is used are: 

  1. China 32% 
  2. United States 16% 
  3. Japan 9% 
  4. India 7% 
  5. Germany 6% 

Rounding out the top 10 you find Italy, Spain, Australia, Korea and the UK. You might be surprised to know that solar power is also gaining popularity in Vietnam. 

Nature’s Sunshine Is Solar Powered! 

Nature’s Sunshine became a “solar energy manufacturer” in July 2022, when our 200,000 square-foot facility in Spanish Fork, Utah, switched to 100% solar power.

We partner with a local solar farm that began operating in December 2021. This 500+ acre farm features more than a quarter of a million solar panels that supply electricity to six communities across central Utah. 

With this transition, 91% of our US operations are powered renewably, and 82% of our global operations use sustainable energy. Manufacturing with solar power has also dramatically reduced our environmental impact, cutting our own carbon emissions by 42%! We are very proud of these are statistics, and we remain committed to lead out in sustainability.

RESOURCES 

https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/where-is-solar-power-used-the-most 

https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/how-does-solar-work 

https://blog.sciencemuseum.org.uk/making-fire-from-the-sun/#:~:text=Among%20the%20first%20known%20tools,heat%20to%20start%20a%20fire.