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

1982, Arizona Geological Survey

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1980, Colorado Geological Survey
Current use and long range potential for development of geothermal energy; existing and forecast energy demands in the San Luis Valley, Costilla County. 44 pages. 10 figures. 14 tables. Digital PDF download. OF-80-13D
1929, Ohio Geological Survey

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2012, Arizona Geological Survey

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2012, Arizona Geological Survey

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2011, Arizona Geological Survey

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2017, United States Geological Survey

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2017, United States Geological Survey
The economic growth of an industrialized nation such as the United States requires raw materials for construction (buildings, bridges, highways, and so forth), defense, and processing and manufacture of goods and services. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the types and quantities of raw...
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...
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...