Renewable Energy

According to the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance (TREIA) renewable energy is defined as: 

Any energy resource that is naturally regenerated over a short time scale and derived directly from the sun (such as thermal, photochemical and photoelectric), indirectly from the sun (such as wind, hydropower and photosynthetic energy stored in biomass), or from other natural movements and mechanisms of the environment (such as geothermal and tidal energy). Renewable energy does not include energy resources derived from fossil fuels, waste products from fossil sources or waste products from inorganic sources. 

In short, renewable energy is any energy source that is naturally replenished, like that derived from solar, wind, geothermal or hydroelectric action.
Home Solar Panel
For more information about the City of Irving’s codes and permitting requirements related to installation of solar, wind and geothermal systems on residential and commercial structures, contact the Inspections Department at (972) 721-4900.
  1. Solar
  2. Wind
  3. Geothermal
  4. Hydro
  5. Resources
West Irving Library - Solar PanelsPhoto: The solar panels atop West Irving Library.

The sun has produced energy for billions of years. Solar energy is the sun's rays (solar radiation) that reach the Earth. This energy can be converted into heat and electricity. Radiant energy from the sun has powered life on earth for many millions of years.

In the 1830s, the British astronomer John Herschel famously used a solar thermal collector box – a device that absorbs sunlight to collect heat – to cook food during an expedition to Africa. Today, people use the sun's energy for a variety of purposes. 

Heat and Electricity

When converted to thermal energy, solar energy can be used to heat water for use in homes, buildings or swimming pools; to heat spaces inside homes, greenhouses and other buildings; and to heat fluids to high temperatures to operate a turbine that generates electricity.

Solar energy is converted to electricity in two ways:
  • Photovoltaic (PV devices) or solar cells change sunlight directly into electricity. Individual PV cells are grouped into panels and arrays of panels that can be used in a wide variety of applications ranging from single small cells that charge calculator and watch batteries, to systems that power single homes, to large power plants covering many acres.
  • Solar thermal/electric power plants generate electricity by concentrating solar energy to heat a fluid and produce steam that is then used to power a generator.

Benefits and Limitations

There are two main benefits of solar energy:
  • Solar energy systems do not produce air pollutants or carbon dioxide.
  • When located on buildings, solar energy systems have minimal impact on the environment.
There are two main limitations of solar energy:
  • The amount of sunlight that arrives at the earth's surface is not constant. It varies depending on location, time of day, time of year and weather conditions. 
  • Because the sun doesn't deliver that much energy to any one place at any one time, a large surface area is required to collect the energy at a useful rate. 
Learn More From the Think Green ... Be Green Team