Solar Energy Definition: What Is Solar Energy?

Solar Energy Definition: What Is Solar Energy?

As the world's carbon footprint continues to rise, it's important now more than ever to find a solution to collectively keep our Earth green and healthy.

Published 10/31/2023

What is the exact definition of solar energy?

Solar energy is a type of energy generated and captured via the sun's light. Radiant energy emitted by the sun comes down in the form of sunlight, striking the solar panel to generate electricity. 

The sun is an infinite energy source, unlike fossil fuels, making solar energy an abundant resource. Properly and efficiently harnessing it can significantly reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy sources, leading to a cleaner, more sustainable future.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy comes from resources that are analogous to a “flow” of energy we can harvest, including sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Unlike finite fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, renewable energy sources are virtually inexhaustible. As we continue to harness these sources, we can generate power without depleting the Earth's reserves.

How does renewable energy differ from non-renewable energy?

The difference between renewable and non-renewable energy is in their impact on the planet. Non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels contribute to carbon pollution. In contrast, renewable energy sources can naturally replenish and provide energy indefinitely. This fundamental difference illustrates the environmental benefits and long-term viability of renewable energy, in comparison to non-renewable.

What are the benefits of renewable energy?

Fortunately, you don't even have to look far to find the benefits of renewable energy.

Environmental sustainability

One of its most essential benefits of renewable energy is its effect on the environmental footprint. Compared to traditional fossil fuels, renewable energy sources like solar panels do not emit greenhouse gasses, mitigating air pollution and combating climate change. 

Yes, it’s true that it does take some energy and resources to produce solar panels; however, the panels will generate much more energy over their lifetime than it takes to produce them. 

Energy reliability nationally

Embracing renewable energy sources can also support a nation's energy security by reducing exposure to price spikes caused by geopolitical events, fostering a stable energy landscape resilient to external disruptions.

Economic benefits

By the renewable energy sector investing in more renewable energy technologies, they are also stimulating innovation, generating employment opportunities across various industries and the local economies.


With the advancements in technology and the obvious economic benefits, renewable energy sources are becoming more cost-competitive, compared to non-renewable alternatives1. This transition towards renewable energy will ultimately translate into more affordable energy solutions for consumers, promising long-term cost savings.

Why solar energy is important for our future

It’s no secret that we’re turning to renewable energy sources to help reduce our carbon emissions.

Overall, most countries strive for a 45% reduction by 2030 and to achieve net-zero by the year 2050. However, to reach net-zero, countries must cut greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible.

Increasingly, societies are looking at solar as one of the major players. Sunlight is one of the most freely available energy resources. Of course, it depends on the location, time of year, time of day, and season, among other things. But that’s accounted for in the technology and systems we’re creating.

It’s abundant and inexhaustible

The sun is the ultimate source of solar energy, blasting our planet with more energy in one hour than it consumes in a year. That’s why more countries are turning to this solution, realizing that solar energy is critical to reducing our dependence on other finite resources.

It’s clean and sustainable

Solar power is also clean, emitting no greenhouse gasses or pollutants during electricity generation. By choosing solar energy, we reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment.

It helps homeowners achieve energy independence

Solar panels can be installed on rooftops and in remote areas, providing localized energy production and increasing energy resilience. This decentralized approach reduces vulnerability to centralized power grids and energy disruptions.

It offers economic benefits

At a time when our economy is drastically changing, the solar industry is looking to be a thriving job creator. It offers employment opportunities in all areas, including manufacturing, installation, and maintenance. Additionally, the cost of solar panels has decreased significantly in recent years, making solar energy more accessible to homeowners and businesses. With more investment in the infrastructure, it creates a win-win throughout the economy.

Passive vs. active solar energy

Now that we have touched on solar energy and its benefits, we can now think of the multiple ways to incorporate solar. We will be breaking it down into Passive and Active solar energy. 

What is passive solar energy?

Passive solar energy design philosophy includes essential elements that work together to make the best use of the sun’s energy. Passive solar design begins with the building site, your geographical location, climate, and materials used during production. This concept has been used for centuries, from the south-facing windows of ancient Roman architecture to the modern-day design of energy-efficient homes:

South-facing window

When windows are within 30 degrees of true south and aren’t shaded during the heating season, they can significantly contribute to your heating expense. During the cooling season, shading windows during the heat of the day helps avoid overheating.

Building materials

Masonry adds strength and durability to a home but does double duty by adding insulation properties. Finishing work can add functionality and efficiency through insulation, air sealing, window glazing, and auxiliary heating and cooling systems.


Think architectural design is just for aesthetics? Think again. Today’s builders know that every design aspect can impact function and durability. 

Strategically placed landscaping can keep your home cool in the summer. Adequately sized overhangs can provide shade during the warmest months.

What is active solar energy?

Defining solar energy isn’t always a simple description. The deeper you dive, the more you’ll understand how it impacts you, your home, and your life.

Active solar energy involves using mechanical and electrical devices to convert sunlight into usable power. The most common application of active solar energy is through photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. These panels are composed of many solar cells, which capture sunlight and convert it into electricity.

Active solar systems can generate electricity for homes, businesses, and even entire communities.

What’s more, excess electricity can often be fed back into the grid, providing a source of income for homeowners and reducing the overall demand for fossil fuels.

While many are concerned about our reliance on fossil fuels, solar energy as a power source is becoming more popular than ever. Plus, there are many economic benefits to utilizing it on a personal level.

Installing in solar panels has become even more affordable in recent years, making it an attractive investment for both homeowners and businesses alike. This is because solar power can substantially lower or even eliminate electricity bills, saving those who use it some significant money.

As you delve into what active and passive solar energy is, it’s important to remember that the two technologies work together.

Passive solar energy is about consumption, while active solar energy is about generation. Using the two together can increase efficiency over time, creating cleaner energy.

Embracing solar energy isn’t just a matter of economics, but it’s also a matter of environmental responsibility. By taking advantage of the sun’s power, you can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and protect the planet for future generations.

Sunrun is ready to partner with you

Selecting Sunrun as your solar energy partner goes beyond just acquiring solar panels — it signifies your commitment to a more sustainable future. We recognize that navigating the path to solar power may feel overwhelming, which is why we stand by as your unwavering experts, guiding you every step of the way.

Our team of Solar Advisors offers tailored consultations, simplifying the complexities of transitioning to solar energy. Each Sunrun solar system is crafted to suit your home's distinctive energy profile and specific needs. With our industry-leading guarantee, your peace of mind is safeguarded throughout the entire lifespan of your Sunrun solar system, ensuring that you have access to dependable, renewable, and cost-effective energy precisely when you require it most.

Take control over escalating energy expenses and transition to a secure, sustainable, dependable energy future with Sunrun. Your journey towards a brighter tomorrow starts right here.



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