Solar power is the the conversion of the energy from the sun to usable electricity. The most common source of solar power utilizes photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaics utilize a semi-conductor to absorb the radiation from the sun, when the semi-conductor abosrbs this radiation it emits electrons, which are harnessed as electricity.
Advantages of Solar
Solar energy is a resource that is not only sustainable for energy consumption, it is indefinitely renewable (at least until the sun runs out in billions of years). Solar power can be used to generate electricity, it is also used in relatively simple technology to heat water (solar water heaters). The use of skylights in home construction can also greatly reduce energy expenditure required to light rooms in a homes interior during the day.
Solar panels also require little maintenance. After installation and optimization they are very reliable due to the fact that they actively create electricity in just a few millimeters and do not require any type of mechanical parts that can fail. Solar panels are also a silent producer of energy, a necessity if dealing with picky neighbors. The federal government has also introduced generous tax credits for individuals and companies that invest in solar and other clean energy systems.
Disadvantages of Solar
The primary disadvantage of solar power is that it obviously cannot be created during the night. The power generated is also reduced during times of cloud cover (although energy is still produced on a cloudy day). Solar panel energy output is maximized when the panel is directly facing the sun. This means that panels in a fixed location, such as the building above, will see a reduced energy production when the sun is not at an optimal angle. Many largescale solar "farms" combat this problem by having the panels on towers (above left) that can track the sun to keep the panel at optimal angles throughout the day.
Even todays most efficient solar cells only convert just over 20% of the suns rays to electricity. With increased advances in solar cell technology this number is likely to increase. Besides their low conversion efficiency, solar panels can be a substantial initial investment. However, the cost of solar panels incurred is only the initial cost, after buying and installation they create free energy for use.