Solar Energy

What does Solar Energy Mean?

Definition of Solar Energy in Construction

Energy created by the sun. Solar energy has been around as long as the sun has heated the earth. Primitive man positioned their homes to take advantage of the warmth of the sun and structures have always been built to maximize, or minimize the effects of solar warmth.

Initially, the use of solar energy for something other than its immediate effect, of heat from its rays, was the use of solar energy to heat water. There was a development period where large dark plastic containers or coils of dark tubing, were positioned in the sun, to warm the liquid in these containers. The use of solar warmth to heat pool water was a popular concept. This initial, elementary phase, then moved on to a heated warming box, or container with a fan, to move the warm air through the box and into an occupied space. Solar heat became the latest technical achievement, as houses started to be positioned to accept the warmth of the sunlight incorporating large heat storage containments which were constructed to store the heat of the sun, for the periods during a 24 hour daily cycle, when the stored heat was necessary, the evening and cloudy days. Technology and experimentation developed to create some extremely interesting concepts, such as the underground home, the use of masonry to achieve a legitimate heat storage medium, the use of window walls separated from the primary facade to create a heated air space, or envelop around the home, the establishment of large stone or other material storage bins. Technology was limited to simply storing and containing the sunlight’s heat for night time, or cloudy day use. The advancements for using solar energy to heat a structure moved slowly and methodically as contractors developed practical methods of using the solar energy from the sun to a maximum.

Solar energy then advanced into a new concept, that the solar energy could actually be used to create an electrical current. Albeit, extremely small, this current could be stored in a battery that could be used as current for appliances, heating and cooling elements, etc. This break thru in solar energy created an entirely new field of solar panels, coatings, battery storage capabilities, etc. The creation of electricity simply by the sun’s rays, passing through the proper medium, became the focus of new technology and engineering.

Currently, the use of solar energy to create electricity, thru what is called photovoltaic cells and coatings, is the dominant field in developing the potential of solar energy. Engineering and development is focused on improving the efficiency of solar panels that create the energy, by increasing the amount of energy, in watts, that is created, per square foot of panel. The development of better and more efficient means of storing this electrical energy, in the form of batteries, is a major engineering focus. Together with the increase in panel efficiency, as well as the efficiency of a battery storage system, the use of solar energy will continue to advance and develop.
Solar energy will always be a primary design element and consideration. The positioning of a structure, the shading of awnings and projections, the window placement within the facade, as well as the color of materials, will continue to have an influence on design and construction. However, the development of products that convert the sunlight to electricity, the development of new and improved storage, and the development of new and improved transmission of this energy is in its infancy.

Solar energy is an exciting technology, and its use within the construction industry will continue to increase.