Solar energy converts solar radiation (ligth) into energy. Every location on Earth receives some sunlight over a year, the amount of solar radiation that reaches any one spot on the Earth’s surface varies. Solar energy and specifically solar photovoltaics (solar PV) captures this radiation and turn it into useful forms of energy.
Solar PV utilizes solar panels. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.
Other types of solar technologies include solar heating & cooling (SHC), and concentrating solar power (CSP).
Here’s an animated step by step graphic from Save on Energy: