Solar energy is one of the recent technologies that harnesses radiations from the sun, converting it into electricity or thermal energy. The inexhaustible nature of this form of energy, being that it comes from the sun, makes it a renewable energy. In contrast with other non-renewable energy such as fossil fuel or even natural gas, solar energy is in constant supply. Though it is free, the cost incurred during its collection, conversion and storage, has limited its exploitation in many places.
To acquire thermal energy, devices called flat-plate collectors are used in capturing the solar energy and in the conversion process. They are typically large in area, in order to collect as much energy and a blackened metal is used to absorb the energy. The heat generated from this method of conversion is used in solar water heaters and in house heating. In a smaller scale, this energy can be used in cooking and there are solar ovens that are specially designed for this purpose.
Radiations from the sun are also converted into electricity using solar cells. Photovoltic technology makes this possible. Light from the sun will strike the junction between a semiconductor and a metal, or even a junction between two semiconductors and as a result, electric voltage is produced. When individual solar cells are put together in large numbers, it forms an array of solar panels, which generates high electric power. The solar panels are placed on roof tops where they directly face the sun, to harness as much solar energy. To augment or even replace the conventional ways of electric supply and other domestic uses of thermal energy, solar energy is used to supply energy at a far cheaper cost.