There are many reasons why people choose to go solar, but improving the environment and cutting energy costs are the most common. Many people are aware that solar is a great home efficiency upgrade and are eager to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving their property value.
Whether your motivations for going solar are economic, environmental, or personal, understanding solar energy and how it works and can benefit you is important.
All solar energy systems rely on receiving radiation from the sun to operate. There are two forms of radiation involved in solar energy: Shortwave radiation and Longwave radiation.
Shortwave radiation (visible light) contains a lot of energy; longwave radiation (infrared light) contains less energy than shortwave radiation (shortwave radiation has a shorter wavelength than longwave radiation).
Solar energy enters our atmosphere as shortwave radiation in the form of ultraviolet (UV) rays and visible light. The sun emits shortwave radiation because it is extremely hot and has a lot of energy to give off. Once in the Earth’s atmosphere, clouds and the surface absorb the solar energy.
Solar energy is one of the most renewable and readily available sources of energy we have. We can take for granted that we will always have heat and light from the sun but without harnessing it correctly we cannot garner its energy for practical use. One way of harnessing solar energy is by using it to produce electricity.
This technique requires the use of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) devices or solar cells that convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Photovoltaic devices produce electricity when the sun’s radiation hits these cells and is converted to direct current (DC) energy. This DC energy travels to an electrical device called an inverter, which converts DC energy into alternating current (AC) energy. The AC electricity produced is just like the power supplied by your utility company, and can go directly to power things like computers and lights, or the power produced can be exported back to the mains national electricity grid and get redistributed around the country.
The second way to harness solar energy is by using a solar thermal collector device. These devices harness heat by absorbing the sun rays. This technique is best used around your home for use such as to heat water heaters, hot tubs, and swimming pools.
The most popular way to convert solar energy to electricity is to install Photovoltaic (PV) cells or PV Solar panels. These cells capture the sun’s shortwave energy and convert it into electricity. These solar cells are made of materials that show photovoltaic (light & electricity) effect, meaning that when the sun rays strike the PV cell, the photons of light trigger the electrons inside the cell and start them flowing from side to side in the cell, ultimately producing electricity.
Once solar energy has been converted into electricity, there is no down time – it can be instantly used to power lights or many other devices. Better still, it can be stored in batteries for future use. Although solar power is usually generated into direct current (DC)-type electricity, it can also be converted into AC (alternating current) using a device known as an inverter.
Depending on how Solar energy is captured and then used, there are two ways to categorize it. Solar energy can be referred to as as active or passive solar energy. In active solar energy, special solar heating equipment is used to convert solar energy to heat energy whereas in passive solar energy the mechanical equipment is not present. Active solar include the use of equipment.
Passive solar technologies convert solar energy to heat energy without use of equipment. It is mainly the practice of using windows, walls, trees, building placement and other simple techniques to capture or deflect the sun for use. Passive solar heating is a great way to conserve energy and maximizing its utilization.
By lowering your power bills, these systems not only pay for themselves over time, but they help reduce the air pollution caused by big electricity companies. Contributing clean, green power from your own solar electric system helps create jobs and is a great way to mitigate the pollution and other problems produced by electricity derived from fossil fuel. Solar-powered electrical generating systems help you reduce your impact on the environment and save money at the same time!