An Introduction to Solar Energy for Children

When you look up at the sky in the morning – what do you see? The sun! The sun is a star that is full of gases that burn all the time. It gives off heat when it burns. The amount of gas that burns for the sun is very large indeed! These burning gases make the sun very, very hot. The gas that burns also causes the sun’s glow. And this is how we get light and heat from the sun, in the form of the sun’s rays.Solar energy is a form of energy from the sun. Like electricity, solar energy can also be used as power. Solar energy is found wherever you find sunshine. So what is energy? Energy is a force or power whose help we use to do things. We need physical energy when we need to move something like a heavy box. A jar of sweets contains lots of potential energy as there are many sweets in there or fire crackers that you use have chemical energy in them. A bulb glows because of electric energy.The sun’s rays travel and hit the surface of the earth and they have a lot of heat and light in them and that is why we call it solar – sun – energy. Without sunlight there would be no life on earth. Plants depend on it to live and animals depend on plants for food. Sunlight and the atmosphere make sure that our earth has temperatures that we can survive and live in. Solar energy can be used to cook food, power cars and other vehicles, power homes, and is 100% free! Unlike other types of energy, the sun won’t ever run out.Solar energy is energy taken from the sun that changed into electrical energy. This electric energy is also known as thermal energy. The sun has been producing energy for billions of years. The sun is the richest energy source. Solar energy is clean and can be made into other energy forms. With the human help it can power inventions to provide pollution-free energy. It can used as electric energy in homes, theatres, hospitals, movie houses, schools, night soccer games, greenhouses, businesses and in so many other ways. It can also heat water in your home and swimming pool too! It can make electricity. There are homes that get all their electric energy from solar energy.Because the sun sets and it’s not always sunny outside, solar batteries help store the energy from the sun. At night or on cloudy days these batteries can use the energy they have stored from the sun and in that way we benefit from solar energy too.Solar energy can save money and make a huge difference in pollution. So if we all start to use solar energy we will have a much cleaner planet to live in. We will actually be taking very good care of our planet!Solar panels can power just about anything from calculators to large homes or business. How does it work? Solar cells can directly turn sunshine into electricity. When light hits the solar cells on the solar panels, the collision (crashing) knocks electrons loose. The cells electric field forces the electrons to flow in a current. Metal contacts on the top and bottom of each cell create a circuit that draws of the current. To care for solar panels dust and wash the regularly and remove dirt and things such as bird droppings. To work, panels have to be pointed to the sun, at an angle of about 30°. Some panels are put flat against the roof but they do not do the job quite as well then.So if we are responsible citizens of Planet Earth we should start to think about how we can use solar energy in our everyday lives so that we can make a difference to the well being of our planet.Compiled by Teri Ferreira