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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(2016-07-28)
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...
Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic
(2016-07-28)
July 11, 2016 The Solar Fuels Innovation Act (H.R.5638) and the Electricity Storage Innovation Act (H.R.5640) passed the House by voice vote this July. The bills, which require the Department of Energy (DOE) to carry out two new basic research initiatives, received bipartisan support. The two...
Sun
(2015-10-09)
September 21, 2015 On September 21, Vice President Joe Biden in coordination with the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the creation of a new initiative to fund solar research and development in the United States. The SunShot Initiative within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable...

Geological Surveys Database Publications

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...
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...
2011, United States Geological Survey

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2017, United States Geological Survey
Solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind turbine technologies are projected to make up an increasing proportion of electricity generation capacity in the United States in the coming decades. By 2050, they will account for 36 percent (or 566 gigawatts) of capacity compared with about 11 percent (or 118...
1991, Arizona Geological Survey
This report is a nontechnical swnmary of the energy resources of Arizona intended to accompany the Energy Resources Map of Arizona. Arizona is endowed with a variety of energy resources and potential resources; each is given its own chapter in this report. Chapters are arranged according to the...
2007, Colorado Geological Survey

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1975, Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys

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1994, Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

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2001, Utah Geological Survey

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2016, United States Geological Survey
Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey are improving and developing new ground-based remote-sensing instruments and techniques to study how EarthâEuro TMs vegetation responds to changing climates. Do seasonal grasslands and forests âEuro oegreen upâEuro early (or late) and grow...