A simple example of solar thermal energy would be filling a black plastic bag with cold creek water and leaving it out in the sun to warm the water Ė making nice warm water for a shower. A shower bag like this is now a pretty typical camping item.
Understanding solar electrical energy can be more mysterious than understanding electricity itself. To make the concept easier to understand we will need to over-simplify a few details. For the more technically inclined, please forgive our over-simplifications.
Electric solar cells are made up of special materials called semiconductors, such as silicon. When light hits the silicon cell, a portion is absorbed into the cell, knocking electrons loose and causing the electrons to flow freely. These cells already had one or more electronic fields that now force the newly freed electrons to travel in one common direction. These flowing electrons now create a current, and by placing metal contacts on the top and bottom of the cell, this current can be drawn off to be used externally.
This electric current (measured in Amps) together with the cellís Voltage (the result of itís built-in electric fields), combine to define the overall power (measured in Watts) the cell can produce.
Volts (pressure) x Amps
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