“Solar Energy” ~ A report written by a local fifth-grade student

February 11, 2013

Do you have solar panels, but not know how they work? Solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it into energy. It is a great renewable energy because we will never run out of sunlight. You might have seen a solar panel on a calculator. Solar panels for homes is the same process but in a much bigger scale. Using solar energy can reduce or replace the use of fossil fuels. Transforming sunlight into energy is a fascinating process.

A complicated process is involved when sunlight hits a photovoltaic cell (solar cell). A photovoltaic cell is made from a silicon atom mixed with a phosphorous atom. The outer shell of a phosphorous atom has 1 more electron then the silicon atom, and when sun hits the cell it takes a very small amount of energy to knock the extra electron free and find a hole to fill in. Then, the silicon atom is negative. Another part of a solar cell is boron, which is positive when mixed with silicon. The positive atom has openings for free atoms on the negative side. That is the first part of the process of solar cell making energy from sunlight.

The next step in the process is the part where the energy is made. An electrical field is formed when the positive and negative silicon come together. The free electrons on the n side fill up a lot of the spaces on the p side. Whenever an electron goes to the p side it makes it harder for electrons to go to the p side. After some time, an electrical field is formed between the n and p side. The electrical field only lets electrons from the p side to the n side. This creates energy for us to use. That is the process of turning sunlight into energy.

There are advantages and disadvantages of having solar panels. One benefit of having solar panels is that they provide energy for your home. A disadvantage is that they are still very expensive, but when I interviewed Linda Tolliver Terry at Solar Works I found out that it’s cheaper than using fossil fuels. Another benefit is that it will reduce the use of fossil fuels. The next benefit is that a poor person that doesn’t know how to read and write can learn how to use solar power and help their community. There is a documentary movie about this called Solar Mamas by Jehane Nouiaim. Finally, another cost is that you often need to replace them and constantly check on them. Those are the main advantages and disadvantages of solar panels.

Solar power was discovered not that long ago. Auguste Mouchout was the first man to invent a solar power motor. He discovered it starting in 1860, and ended in 1881. Next, Willoughly Smith found out about solar cell’s sensitivity to light. He did this in 1873. Then, William Adams wrote the first book on solar energy called A Substitute for Fuel in Tropical Countries. William Adams started writing the book in 1876, and finished the book in 1878. After that, Charles Fritz transformed sunlight into energy. He made this happen in 1883. Finally, Charles Tellier installed the first solar power system for heating water. Charles Tellier made the system starting in the year 1865, and he finished in the year 1889. That is a quick history of solar energy.

Do you know who the person who invented solar power was? It was Alexandre Bequerel! Alexandre Bequerel was born in Paris on March 24, 1820. He studied the sun’s characteristics and effects. Alexandre Bequerel invented the phosphoroscope so he could measure the time between a solid, liquid, gas, and light source. This invention helped him study. He never invented a commercial light, but his discoveries lead to fluorescent lamps. Alexandre Bequerel’s discoveries also lead to a two-volume series called La Lumiere, sea canoes et sea effects. The books were worked on in 1867 and 1868. This person was very important in the creation of solar energy.

Solar power is getting more effective every year. It’s getting more effective because of technology and that we are getting more aware that we need to use a renewable source. All the people that invented something to help solar power expand are now helping the world tremendously. You can help the Earth by using solar panels to provide your energy.