The bottom line is that the sun can provide us with more energy than we actually use on a daily basis.
Of all the energy sources available to us, the Sun is our largest source by far, dropping 970 trillion kWh worth of free energy on us every day. Enough solar energy strikes the United States each day to supply its needs for one and a half years.
Put another way, the amount of solar energy the Earth receives every minute is greater than the amount of energy from fossil fuels the world uses in a year!
Now modern attempts to harvest the sun’s energy date back to the 1870s, and the first solar motor company was founded in 1900. The first documented design was a concentrating solar power (CSP) device.
Today, CSP plants have been radically improved. Modern plants usually use huge arrays of parabolic trough mirrors to superheat oil or molten salts, which is then used to drive a turbine. Such designs have two key advantages: They can provide their own power storage and continue operating when the sun goes down; or when the sun isn’t shining, they can be switched over to run on natural gas.
Of course, most solar investors will find the bulk of solar opportunities – not in CSP – but in photovoltaics (PV).
PV is what most people think of when talking about solar. This is what you see when you gaze upon solar panels on the roof of a home or building.