Is solar energy exhaustible or inexhaustible

The sun as an energy source

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The sun as a source of energy

It is around 150 million kilometers from Earth and 109 times the size of our planet - the sun. It consists of 70 percent hydrogen and 28 percent helium, the remaining 2 percent is made up of other elements. Since its formation 4.5 billion years ago, the sun has already fused half of the hydrogen supply in its core to form helium.

This nuclear fusion inside the gas ball ensures that the radiation from the sun hits our planet in the form of electromagnetic waves and makes life on earth possible in the first place. It takes about 8 minutes for the effects of the nuclear reaction in the sun, which then hit the earth as radiation, to be felt on our planet.

The energy potential of the sun

At some point, however, the sun's hydrogen supply will be used up. However, this will take another 5 billion years, which is why the sun is seen from a human perspective as an almost inexhaustible source of energy with enormous potential. The potential is so great that the amount of energy that hits it is around 5,000 times higher than the energy requirements of all of humanity.

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Use of solar energy

Probably the most important task of solar energy and at the same time its largest area of ​​use is the warming of the earth and photosynthesis, which is only possible with light energy. In addition, differences in air pressure and water cycles are also directly influenced by solar energy. With the help of modern technologies, a wide spectrum of solar energy can be made available to humans. Here, not only direct but also indirect solar energy is of technical use.

Direct and indirect solar energy

The forms of energy that use indirect solar energy include wind energy, hydropower and tidal energy, as well as bioenergy such as wood or biogas. Here, the solar energy stored by the plants during their growth is made usable either through processing (biogas) or direct combustion (wood) to generate electricity or heat.

However, it is also possible to use solar energy directly to generate electricity or heat. For this purpose, the solar energy is converted either with the help of solar collectors into thermal energy or through photovoltaic systems into electrical energy. Both the direct and indirect use of solar energy is one of the renewable energies, the use and expansion of which is promoted in many countries.

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Usable amount of energy from the sun

The radiated energy and thus the usable amount of energy is strongly dependent on the composition of the solar spectrum, the angle of incidence on the earth's surface and the duration of sunshine. Depending on the season, latitude and time of day, the radiated energy is not equally intense all over the world.


Worldwide availability of solar energy, image source: Wikipedia, Mlino76

In Central Europe, the radiation energy is around 1,000 kWh per square meter, while the intensity in the Sahara is 2,350 kWh per square meter.

However, this does not mean that the use of solar energy in the less radiation-intensive regions is not worthwhile. Even in “low-radiation” Germany, the amount of energy radiated by the suns, at 900 to 1,100 kWh per square meter, is 200 times higher than the primary energy consumption of the entire German population.

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Tags:Solar energy, sun