The Basics: Solar is the Latin word for sun—a powerful source of energy that can be used to heat, cool, and light our homes and businesses. That’s because more energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year. A variety of technologies convert sunlight to usable energy for buildings. The most commonly used solar technologies for homes and businesses are solar water heating, passive solar design for space heating and cooling, and solar photovoltaics for electricity.
How it Works: Simply put, photovoltaic tiles and other forms of solar energy work by converting some of the energy in sunlight into a clean form of electricity that can be used in our houses. The PV cells consist of a positive and a negative slice of silicon placed under a thin slice of glass. As the protons of the sunlight beat down onto the PV cell they knock the neutrons off the silicon. The negatively charged free neutrons are attracted to the silicon but are trapped by the magnetic field that is formed from the opposing fields. Small wires on the silicon catch these neutrons and when connected in a circuit an electric current is formed.