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trapping the Sun's energy


Solar energy can provide power for your home, your calculator or even your car without causing any pollution. To trap the Sun's energy directly, we need to use solar panels or solar cells.

Image of a map showing the areas with most intense sunshine each year

Here is a map showing which countries get the most hours of sunshine each day. Can you see why Australia has the potential to make very good use of solar energy? Even though the UK is not a world leader in sunshine, we can still use solar power in addition to other sources of energy.

Image of solar panels on top of buildings in China

Solar Panels


A solar panel uses the Sun's energy directly to heat water.


Here are some solar panels on the rooftops in China.


Diagram of a solar water tank


How does it work? Below right is a close up view. The panel on the roof has a zig-zag of water pipes running through it. The top of the panel is transparent to let the Sun's radiation through. The pipes are painted black and lie on a black base. Black surfaces absorb the Sun's radiation much better than white surfaces. The whole panel has an insulating layer on the bottom, between the water pipes and the roof. Cold water flows in, is heated by the Sun's radiation and hot water flows out. Free hot water! You may have experienced the same effect if you leave a garden hosepipe, which still has water in it, out in the Sun. For the first few seconds after turning the water on again, the water can be surprisingly warm.

Image of a solar tank on a roof

Diagram of a solar panel


Solar Cells


A solar cell (also called a photovoltaic cell) transfers the energy of sunlight into electrical energy. It uses the photoelectric effect.


Image of Lambeth building with solar panels


Here is a modern building in Lambeth, London. Can you see the solar cells?

Image of solar panels on a roof

***********Press Release**************


News Release - 23rd October 2014 - Largest Solar Roof in the UK

Marks & Spencer will install the largest commercial rooftop solar system in the UK at its East Midlands Distribution Centre in Castle Donington.

Power from the 6.1MW array, expected to be online early next year, will be bought exclusively by M&S through a 20-year power purchase agreement. The facility will be close to self sufficiency during the day,


Solar Farms


Solar farms are springing up all over the UK.


One of the best examples can be found in Cambridgeshire, near the village of Wilburton.

This solar farm now has an area of about 117.5 acres (2014) and produces about 19.3 Megawatts (MWp) which will supply 4,800 homes with renewable electrical energy for the next 25 – 30 years.

The project started in 2011 with a 31-acre site and 20,000 photovoltaic panels (PV panels) and has now grown to 117.5 acres and a total of nearly 96,000 PV panels.


See classroom projects on Collecting Solar Energy and Solar Farms


Click here to see Classroom Projects on Collecting and Farming Solar Energy.




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