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Solar Power Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

If you've ever been outside on a sunny day, you know how much heat and energy the sun produces. Learn how we capture and use the energy from the sun to power things on Earth.

The Sun, Our Star

Did you know the sun is a star? Our sun looks different than other stars we see at night simply because it is the closest star to planet Earth. Like all stars, the sun is a burning ball of gases, and it produces lots of heat and energy. The sun is needed for life to exist, and humans have discovered many ways to harness the energy of the sun for lots of uses, from streetlights to cars to electricity for homes.

What is Solar Power and How is It Collected?

Solar means 'sun' in Latin, so solar power is energy from the sun. Solar power is used to heat homes and generate electricity. You might even have a solar powered watch or calculator or swim in a pool that's warmed by a solar pool cover.

You might have seen solar cells similar to this one on a calculator, watch, flashlight or other small device.
solar cell

Solar Cells

Devices called solar cells or photovoltaic cells convert the sun's rays directly into electricity. Solar cells are made of materials that can conduct an electric current. When photons of energy contained in the sun's rays hit the solar cells, some of the energy is captured, which excites electrons within the conductive material and turns it into electricity.

Solar cells can be grouped together to form panels. You might have seen a group of solar panels on a rooftop or covering a large field. Generally speaking, the more solar panels that are linked together, the greater potential for energy production.

With enough solar panels on your home, you can generate all the electricity you need for a household.
solar panels

Solar Power Plants

Another way to collect solar power is to capture the heat from the sun, which is a technique used by solar thermal power plants. 'Thermal' means heat. Solar thermal power plants gather the sun's energy and use it to boil water, which turns into steam. The steam is used to turn turbines, and these move a generator to create electricity. These power plants use large fields of mirrors, solar dishes and solar towers to capture and focus the sun's energy.

This solar thermal power plant in Spain generates lots of electricity for thousands of homes.
solar thermal power plant

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