Solar Energy

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Solar energy is energy from the Sun, which can be harnessed in several ways. Solar panels use the photovoltaic effect to generate electricity directly from sunlight. The Sun’s heat can be used directly to heat water or air, or it can be concentrated to boil water, driving steam turbines that generate electricity.

Basics

Photo of a 600 kW solar electric system on the Minneapolis Convention Center

Solar energy is energy from the Sun, which can be harnessed in several ways. Solar panels use the photovoltaic effect to generate electricity directly from sunlight. The Sun’s heat can be used directly to heat water or air, or it can be concentrated to boil water, driving steam turbines that generate electricity. Solar energy is a form of renewable energy.
Solar power generation is most effective in places that have a lot of direct sunlight throughout the year. Low-latitude, desert areas are ideal, such as southern California, Arizona, and Nevada. However, most areas of the United States are sunny enough to use solar energy to some extent. Solar energy is only available when the sun is shining, so even in the sunniest places, nighttime energy needs must be provided by other energy sources. Scientists and engineers are working to develop advanced batteries to store energy generated from solar power and therefore make solar energy usable 24 hours a day.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

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July 13, 2016 The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing to discuss the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (H.R.2663), a bipartisan bill with 67 cosponsors that was introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) in 2015. If enacted, H.R.2663 would...
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Geological Surveys Database Publications

2011, West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey
8.5" x 14" Booklet to assist the K-12 science teacher in understanding and teaching introductory theories and concepts covering the formation and deformation of sedimentary rocks. Classroom activities and demonstrations. Engaging and well illustrated conversational text style. Free...
2016, United States Geological Survey
The renewable energy sector is rapidly expanding and diversifying the power supply of the country. Yet, as our Nation works to advance renewable energy and to conserve wildlife, some conflicts arise. To address these challenges, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting innovative research...
2015, United States Geological Survey
Tellurium is one of the least common elements on Earth. Most rocks contain an average of about 3 parts per billion tellurium, making it rarer than the rare earth elements and eight times less abundant than gold. Grains of native tellurium appear in rocks as a brittle, silvery-white material, but...
2008, Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

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2015, United States Geological Survey
In response to recent diplomatic developments between Cuba and the United States, the National Minerals Information Center compiled available information on the mineral industries of Cuba. This fact sheet highlights a new map and table that identify mines, mineral processing facilities, and...
2015, United States Geological Survey
Elevation data are essential to a broad range of applications, including forest resources management, wildlife and habitat management, national security, recreation, and many others. For the State of Utah, elevation data are critical for infrastructure and construction management, natural resources...
2012, Utah Geological Survey

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2011, United States Geological Survey

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2011, United States Geological Survey

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1996, Pennsylvania Geological Survey

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