What many people think is the definition of solar power, is actually very different from what solar power truly is. Solar power is really any energy from the sun at all, including the light and heat we take for granted everyday. The definition that many people would give nowadays for solar power, though, is energy from the sun that has been controlled and for use.
Solar cells have several different layers. The top layer is just a thin, clear protective layer through which sunlight passes. Underneath is the N- type silicon, a specialized silicon that is given more electrons than others. Sunlight continues through into the gaps of the next layer, P- type silicon, which has less electrons than normal. The sunlight gives the electrons just enough energy to jump through the gaps, creating an electric current. The millions of gaps and electric currents together can power machinery. This process is called photovoltaics.
Solar energy can benefit the environment because of several qualities. These include the fact that solar energy is renewable and clean. There is sunlight throughout most of the day for energy. Solar panels are also very easy to install.
There are restrictions, too. Solar energy can only be stored up to three days, and with only the higher end of solar panel products. A commercial solar panel take large amounts of room, and can only take in energy when sunlight hits it, so it doesn't have any effect at night or on stormy days. They are also very costly.
There has also been speculation on how much silicon is really available to us. While some say that there is plenty in the earth, others state that there is a shortage of silicon. Several sites have reported that in an effort to produce polysilicon cheaply, Chinese companies have dumped toxic waste in to the ground, killing both humans and wildlife. The paper testifies that fields in the Henan Province have turned white from the chalky waste of silicon tetrachloride, which is created at the ratio of four tons for every one ton of polysilicon. Toxic hydrogen chloride gas and acids drift from the waste. Whether this is actually true or not is a mystery.