How Solar Energy Works

Solar energy—power from the sun—is a vast, inexhaustible, and clean resource

Solar electricity generation represents a clean alternative to electricity from fossil fuels, with no air and water pollution, no global warming pollution, no risks of electricity price spikes, and no threats to our public health.

The solar resource

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Center

The solar resource is enormous. Just 18 days of sunshine on Earth contains the same amount of energy as is stored in all of the planet's reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas.

How solar panels work

Photo: pedrosala/Shutterstock

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are based on a high-tech but remarkably simple technology that converts sunlight directly to electricity.

Rooftop solar panels: Benefits, costs, and smart policies

Photo: Joseph Somes/Shutterstock

Rooftop solar has never been more affordable for home owners, business owners, and their communities.

Solar power plants: Large-scale PV

Photo: worradirek/Shutterstock

A large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant may have hundreds of thousands or even millions of solar panels.

Concentrating solar power plants

Photo: Piotr Zajda/Shutterstock

Unlike photovoltaic (PV) systems, which use the sun’s light to generate electricity, concentrating solar power systems generate electricity using the sun’s heat.

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