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Solar Energy Basics

Solar energy is a powerful source of energy that can be used to heat, cool, and light homes and businesses.

Photo of a solar electric system in Colorado with snow-covered mountain peaks in the background.

Solar panels installed at 11,000 feet elevation on the roof of the Aspen Mountain Ski Resort.

More energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year. A variety of technologies convert sunlight to usable energy for buildings. The most commonly used solar technologies for homes and businesses are solar photovoltaics for electricity, passive solar design for space heating and cooling, and solar water heating.

Businesses and industry use solar technologies to diversify their energy sources, improve efficiency, and save money. Energy developers and utilities use solar photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies to produce electricity on a massive scale to power cities and small towns.

Learn more about the following solar technologies:

Solar Photovoltaic Technology

Converts sunlight directly into electricity to power homes and businesses.

Passive Solar Technology 

Provides light and harnesses heat from the sun to warm our homes and businesses in winter.

Solar Water Heating 

Harnesses heat from the sun to provide hot water for homes and businesses.

Solar Process Heat 

Uses solar energy to heat or cool commercial and industrial buildings.

Concentrating Solar Power

Harnesses heat from the sun to provide electricity for large power stations.


Additional Resources

For more information about solar energy, visit the following resources:

Solar Energy Technology Basics
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Energy Kids Solar Basics
U.S. Energy Information Administration Energy Kids

Clean Energy Education and Professional Development
U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy