For years people have talked about solar energy but called it unrealistic because of the high costs. But did you know that according to studies solar power has fallen 99% in price from 50 years ago?
For that matter, the technology remains cheaper than fossil fuels and solar power plants can last up to 50 years. Businesses and industries are already fans of solar power.
But what about the small business or individual consumer? How practical are solar energy panels for your needs? In this article, we’re going to explain how solar energy panels work and what you get when you work with a solar team.
The Source of Solar Energy
We take the power of sunlight for granted. Sunlight, also called solar radiation, not only lights up our days but could also cover the entire world’s energy consumption for a year. And that’s just one hour of sunlight!
In the sun, we have a practically endless supply of sustainable energy that we’re just now learning how to harness. The only way to take advantage of free solar power is to convert solar radiation into electrical energy.
There are two technologies to explore:
- Photovoltaic Panels
- Concentrated Solar Power or Solar Mirrors
The challenge is that not every location on earth gets equal sunlight. Photovoltaics is the more common choice because of the limitations of solar mirrors, including lower energy density and the need for ideal locations.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
As one solar installation company explains on their website, a solar panel consists of a group of photovoltaic cells, a power inverter, and a net metering installation. The process is simple:
- Step One: Photons from sunlight reach the earth.
- Step Two: Semi-conducting material in the PV cells allows photons to knock electrons free from atoms.
- Step Three: When electrons flow through a positive/negative electrical circuit this creates a flow of electrical current.
Our increasing energy consumption has led to the creation of larger panels and multiple panels wired together, which is called a solar array.
The Power Converter
PV solar panels generate DC energy. Direct Current energy involves electrons flowing in one direction around the circuit, out the positive and then back into the negative terminal.
AC or Alternating Current technology involves generators that push and pull electrons, causing coordinated vibrations. Wire and a magnet, as well as a starter source of energy, power up the generator.
Because solar panels generate Direct Current, you need a converter to turn DC into AC, since AC is the choice of the U.S. electrical power grid. Why? Because AC is cheaper to transmit! So much for that unsolved mystery!
Net metering is part of the solar installation package and is for billing purposes. Your solar panels generate electricity that goes to the local power grid.
If you collect a great deal of solar power during the daytime, the meter runs backward to provide a credit against nighttime electricity needs.
Customers get billed for their net energy use, which is the total energy imported or exported to the grid after your household consumption. Check out this metering article from the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Solar Energy Panels
It’s important to understand how solar power works, the technology of PV cells, and the metering system, so you can see where your money and your energy goes.
Solar energy panels are becoming more affordable in the modern age, as more people become environmentally aware, and also face rising costs of traditional electricity production.
Now might well be the most profitable time to invest in a solar panel installation. For more on green energy and other environmental issues, keep reading Fresh Print Magazine to see “What Matters.”