What is Solar Energy?

Solar Energy is the process of using the Sun's energy in order to generate electricity or heat, using a system of mirrors or panels.

Photovoltaic Cells (Solar Cells) convert sunlight directly into electricity. Photovoltaic cells are generally made up of silicon, and are usually arranged on rectangular panels (as shown in the picture above).

How Does Solar Power Work?

When the sunlight hits an Photovoltaic cell, the energy knocks the electrons free of their atoms, which allows flow through the material. Resulting Direct Current (DC) electricity is then sent to an inverter for conversion into Alternating Current (AC).

solar panels

Solar Concentration systems generally use mirrors that are arranged in a series of long, parabolic troughs, a circle surrounding a "power tower" or a large round dish. This is done to focus the sun's reflected rays on heat-collection. Concentrated sunlight heats water or heat-transferring liquids to generate steam, which then is used to power turbines to generate electricity, as shown in the below diagram.

solar concentration system

Why use Solar Energy?

Solar Energy can be used any where the sun shines. The use of solar energy can allow for the reduction of electric bills. Many businesses/farms have been seen to install enough solar panels that would allow of a reduction of costly summer rates or even pay their entire electric bill.

How much does Solar Energy cost?

The cost of Solar Energy comes down to the performance of the system. Certain factors determine the performance of a system, such as the inverters, panels, size of wiring, connection of the wiring, mounting/racking, conditions of the surrounding environment, etc all affect the value of the system. The total cost of a solar panel system depends upon the panels themselves and the rest is determined by electrical wiring components, inverter, racking/mounting hardware, and labor to install the panels.

How many watts can Solar Panels produce?

The power that a solar panel produces in comparison to the power it can achieve are two different things. A simple method to calculate this amount is to determine the number of "peak sun hours" your particular location receives. Any reputable vendor should have this information. Peak Sun Hour is defined as one hour of 1,000 watts per sqaure meter sunlight. You can multiply the watt rating of a solar panel by the number of peak sun hours in your location in order to get a rough estimate of how much power a solar panel can produce. Please make note that the sun hours vary on the season, and are the lowest during the winter season.

What are the advantages of Solar Energy?

1) Solar Power does not produce any polluting emissions, including those emissions that cause global warming

2) Solar Power reduces electric bills for both commercial and residential consumers.

3) Sunlight is infinitely renewable so long as the sun exists

4) Solar Panels are silent (since they do not have moving parts), rarely need maintenance, and are relatively easy to operate

5) When the demand for electricity is high, utilities can use the panels to generate extra energy rather

What are some of the uses for Solar Energy?

Solar Energy can be used to power a building, heat a house, power a filter in a swimming pool, heat water tanks and much more. The possibilities are virtually endless!

The actual costs in building a wind farm vary. However, the major cost is for the wind turbine itself. This is typically a capital cost and usually is paid for upfront and may account for roughly 75% of the costs.