What trees & solar energy have in common

Adapted from Power To Spare CD ROM*

Trees and photovoltaic panels (call 'em PV cells) are both on very close terms with the sun. They have the same energy-producing secret.

Both trees and PV cells (little wafers of silicon) soak up the sun's rays. All of this is done with no moving parts, no noise, and no pollution.

You've probably that trees soak up the sun's light as "food energy." Through the tree's leaves, this energy is converted into tree food. The food fuels tiny cells which become branches; the branches make leaves.

PV cells also use sunlight as "food." They take a short cut, though, compared to trees. Once the sun's rays hit them, it's a short hop directly to electrical energy.

There are many, many PV cells quietly and secretly doing their work in America today. They tend to "hide out" in some remote places -- like at wooded cabins, by railroad crossings miles from a power line, or way out in the desert.


Solar pannel being installed on a house roof. [WI Energy Bureau]

Solar powered boat.
[WI Energy Bureau]

The power-punchers are out there away from much civilization, just because that's where they work best! They make electricity where other technologies dare not go...

But this doesn't mean they have to be hermits, found only in remote places. All over the U.S., even in cities, there's plenty of sunlight to be caught and converted by PV cells. In fact, Florida and Minnesota can produce about the same amount of electricity from the sun throughout the year.

Just as you can find one tree standing alone in a field, or a few trees grouped together in a grove, or even a large forest of trees, PV cells can be placed together in small or large groups (also known as "arrays") to produce just the right amount of electricity needed to do the job.

You can look for these little sun-soakers to show up in greater numbers. They work best in crowds! They don't pollute either, and they're getting cheaper to buy. More PV cells means more jobs, too. As the use of PV cells multiplies, you'll be seeing more jobs around your community for installing or taking care of PV installations. PV cells are quiet pioneers in the world of tomorrow's energy ... today!

*Thanks to the Izaak Walkton League of America and to Lester Shen for permission and assistance in using these materials.


QUESTION: What examples can you find of solar energy technologies being used in your community?

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