What makes the sun hot? How does photosynthesis use solar energy? Do you have a case of sun on the brain? We sure do! We’ve been spreading sunshine all over the U.S., eager to share some of the many benefits there are to solar energy.
While there’s so much we still don’t know about that big, great orb in the sky, there are a few questions we can answer! 2022 is going to be a big year for solar energy. The most recent reports from SEIA state that 15.7 gigawatts (GWdc) were installed in the U.S. in 2021 with more to come. Many people are wondering, “Are solar panels worth it?” and that opens the door to tons of random questions about the sun and solar energy.
We’ve narrowed down the results for some of the most frequently asked questions about solar.
Let’s take a look at a few:
- What makes the sun hot?
- Is the sun hotter than the Earth’s core?
- Is solar energy renewable?
- What makes solar energy green?
- How does photosynthesis use solar energy?
- What’s the difference between passive vs active solar energy?
1. What makes the sun hot?
We already know the sun is the hottest star in our lives, but why? Instead of asking what makes the sun hot, a better question would be, what causes the sun to give off heat? The answer is simple: nuclear fusion. The sun is a large ball of constantly moving gas around a very hot core. The sun’s core is where a process called nuclear fusion takes place. Nuclear fusion changes hydrogen into helium. Subsequently, heat is created and also light in the form of photons.
According to the NASA Space Place, “Every 1.5 millionths of a second, the sun releases more energy than all humans consume in an entire year.” The immense amount of energy created from the sun has sparked much investigation on better ways to harness solar energy, like space-based solar power stations.
2. Is the sun hotter than the Earth’s core?
The Earth and the sun have a lot of things in common. They’re both big, stratified balls that keep us all alive. But is the sun hotter than the Earth’s core? Simply put: it’s actually not- the Earth’s core is hotter.
Scientists predict the Earth’s core is about 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is only about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Let’s talk about why.
The temperature of the sun actually varies depending on the location. That is to say, the sun has a total of 7 layers, each with a different temperature. These are divided up by the inner layers: the core, the convection zone and the radiative zone, as well as the outer layers: the photosphere, the chromosphere, the transition region and the corona. Its core is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit — talk about scorching! But typically when people are asking about the temperature of the sun, they’re asking about its outermost layer, the surface, which is only about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Is solar energy renewable?
Solar energy is definitely renewable, but what does that really mean? Renewable is a term used to mean that the energy produced can be replenished. These power sources include wind, water, and of course, solar. Solar energy is sustainable and essentially inexhaustible. It’s harnessed from the sun – one of the most abundant sources of power we have access to by the way.
In contrast, nonrenewable energy sources, like coal, form slower and/or will eventually cease to exist. Currently, our power grid runs almost exclusively on non-renewable fuel, but there are so many other alternatives to power.
What’s one thing geothermal, wind, and solar energy have in common?
Location, location, location! The success of production for solar, wind, and geothermal energy depends on the location. Each of these renewable resources are environmentally friendly alternatives to generating electricity. But contrary to popular belief, solar panels can work on cloudy days. Take a minute to debunk a few of the myths heard ‘round the world about solar.
When it comes to renewable energy sources, it’s understandable to get a little confused. Luckily, we’ve compiled a sure-fire guide on the endless possibilities of renewable energy.
4. What makes solar energy green?
Solar energy is green because it uses the sun, a natural, plentiful resource, to generate power with little environmental impact. As mentioned in the “What makes the sun hot?” question, the process of photon creation by way of nuclear fusion within the sun’s core is endless. Although only about 48% of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the Earth’s surface, there is more than enough sunlight to power the world.
In addition to its renewability, solar energy produces little to no carbon emissions through its electricity generation. It’s one of the top advantages of using solar energy.
5. How does photosynthesis use solar energy?
Photosynthesis is one of the wonders of the world. This process is used by plants to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen. And guess what? It uses the sun, like us! Plants have a substance called chlorophyll, which gives them a nice green color, but also enables the absorption of sunlight.
While the process of photosynthesis can be complex, solar energy gets involved when it comes to the light-dependent reactions. This converts light into chemical energy, ATP and NADPH, which are used later to assemble water and oxygen molecules. Funny enough, this is the part of the process we haven’t quite figured out how to replicate in labs.
Scientists have been trying for years to replicate the process and create electricity, instead of glucose. A notable funding from the Department of Energy could lead to huge strides in how solar energy is produced.
6. Passive vs active solar energy: what’s the difference?
In the great debate between passive vs active solar energy, the differences are clear. While solar energy can be used in a variety of ways, passive and active solar energy refer to two kinds of home heating systems. In short, active solar energy must be converted to serve a purpose and passive solar energy doesn’t.
What is passive solar energy?
Passive solar energy is a type of design that allows a home to reap the benefits of solar energy with less configuration. Structurally, passive solar floor plans trap in the most heat during colder months and release heat for warmer months. This technique was often used in ancient civilizations for the same purpose and even to heat water indoors.
What is active solar energy?
Active solar energy “use[s] solar energy to heat a fluid — either liquid or air — and then transfer the solar heat directly to the interior space or to a storage system for later use.” One of the most common active solar systems are the photovoltaic (PV) cells, or solar cells. These solar panels contain semiconducting material that turn sunlight into electricity. Find out more about how solar panels work.
Your Solar Questions, Answered!
Still thinking about what makes the sun hot, or other ways you can get more solar in your life? Contact an ADT Solar Energy Specialist today, and get the answers to your burning questions!