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Explaining solar energy

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Solar energy is rapidly becoming a viable energy alternative, and solar tents are a promising tool in this quest. While the technology using tent fabrics may not yet be ready for mass production, the use of photovolatics has generated significant interest. Everyone has likely heard of solar energy, but many may not be clear on how one can run electrical appliances by using sunlight. The basis for this is something called photovoltaic (photo=light and voltaic=electricity) technology. When light strikes the silicon in a photovoltaic cell, some of the light energy is absorbed within the semiconductor material. This energy knocks electrons loose, allowing them to flow freely. The design of the cells causes the loose electrons to flow in one direction, creating an electric current. This current is drawn off by electrodes connected to the top and bottom of the cell. However, since photovoltaic cells cannot store electrical energy, the energy must either be used as it is produced or stored in batteries.

Todd Jensen is a freelance writer and editor based in Blaine, Minn., who specializes in technical and medical writing.

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