The star at the centre of our solar system, the Sun, is the original source of virtually all our energy and enables life to exist on Earth. Fossil fuels and solar power both originate from the Sun.
Solar energy is the heat and light radiated by the Sun. This essential source of renewable energy can be harnessed using a range of continually evolving technologies. And we can harvest unlimited solar energy from the rays of the sun.
Solar power is created when solar energy is converted into electricity. This can be done directly using energy capturing photovoltaic cells.
The power of the Sun
Aeons ago, the Sun shone on the planet (kinetic energy) and green plants nurtured themselves with the sunlight (photosynthesis). When the plants died, geological processes acted on the dead plant matter, which over millennia was converted into coal, gas and oil (potential energy). We extract these fossil fuel resources from the Earth. We subsequently use them in the manufacture of petrol which is used to power our cars, buses and trucks (kinetic energy). This process takes millions of years.
Today, when the sun shines on the planet (kinetic energy), its energy can be captured by solar panels. The energy can then be stored in an electric car battery (potential energy). This stored energy can be used to power an electric car (kinetic energy). This process takes one day.
Renewable energy from the Sun
Fossil fuels are a long term store of solar power. But because they cannot be reproduced at the rate at which we consume them, they cannot be considered a renewable source of energy.
The future of renewable power generation for transport and our wider energy needs is with new technology. This technology is realised in the portable printed solar panels that we will use on Charge Around Australia. They are flexible, lightweight, tensile and ultra-thin, so they can be used to cover expansive areas. Created using 100% recyclable materials, they are also cheap to produce because they are printed at room temperature using easily obtained organic inks.
Portable printed solar cell panels, in effect, allow us to harvest the kinetic energy that flows from the sun and use it in real time. Truly innovative, they can revolutionise the renewable energy market and make it accessible to everyone – especially in remote regions of the world where it is needed most.