There are many applications for solar power, from your humble calculator, to chargers for cell phones and iPods, to automobiles using panels to top up batteries. Solar panels can even be found on road side signs where it can be impractical to run an electrical cable.
Even in space you will see wide-spread use of solar panels on space stations, where they are more cost-effective than using generators. Imagine the shuttle having to go up every month with oil.
The most important use, and probably the one most people are becoming familiar with, is panels that appear on the roofs of private residences and office buildings.
In today’s current economically and energy-conscious climate, many people are becoming very aware of the cost of energy. While the initial cost of installing solar panels can be somewhat prohibitive, the long-term savings are apparent.
One of the most important considerations for solar power is location; obviously for countries in the extreme northern and southern hemispheres, it may prove to be a bit pointless, given that they can be subjected to darkness for six months of the year. But the rest of the planet can avail itself of the sunlight, and even on overcast days can still be effective.
There are various types of solar collecting applications available on the market today; such as panels for collecting sunlight to create power to charge batteries, run small household devices, or even (in some countries) feed power back into the electrical grid. This can have good economic benefits as the user can have their own power supplied by the sun and make some money back from the power companies. Incentives are available in the UK, and while the sums of money are not huge, it can make reductions in bills received from the electricity supplier. If these initiatives where incorporated into more private houses, offices, and factories, then the strain on the power stations could be eased, therefore less reliance on coal, gas and oil.
There are evacuated-tube collectors that can be used to heat water in the house, or even in your swimming pool; there can usually be a savings of 66% on energy costs associated with water heating.
In energy-conscious countries there are subsidies to be had for taking part in these popular green-energy initiatives. These initiatives are employed in countries that do not produce their own oil.
Oil, as we all know, is a commodity that is not going to be around for much longer; according to the experts, 50–80 years.