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How Does Solar Energy Work?

how does solar energy work

solar power plant

What is solar energy?

Sunlight is a source of food and energy to almost all forms of plant life on the Earth. Ancient humans utilized this knowledge in architecture to enhance heating and lighting in buildings. With advancements in science and technology the question was posed, “how do humans harness the full potential energy from the sun?” This question was answered by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in 1839 when he discovered the photovoltaic system which was later refined by Russell Ohl in 1941 to produce the first solar cell which is employed to this day to produce electricity from the sun’s rays.

how does solar power work

How does solar power work?

Capturing solar power is a process which utilizes the heat and radiant light emitted from the sun’s rays to generate electricity. But how is energy created from light? When the photon particles which make up light strike an object it produces energy which can be felt in the form of heat. Certain compounds of elements let off electrons when sunlight strikes while other elements accept electrons when light strikes them. It was discovered that combining both of these types of compounds together could create a system that would conduct an electrical current through a conductor, thus capturing electricity.

How is solar energy captured?

The most commonly thought of type of solar energy is the photovoltaic system (or PV system) which utilizes panels of silicon or another similar material contained within a layer of tempered glass for protection. Further advancements have allowed these PV systems to take on a variety of practical applications to allow the consumer a wider variety of choices on how this technology can be employed effectively. These are known as PV modules, configurations, panels and cells which allow a customized energy solution for the right environment.

Solar Power Efficiency

Although the sustainability factor of solar energy is in theory one of the most viable, in application capturing electricity through solar rays is a costly endeavor due to the materials required to capture the electron transference. So how is the cost of energy production measured? The price of power is measured by using the cost of kilowatt per hour (kWh). Standard coal power is approximated to cost about 10 cents per kilowatt per hour, while solar power is at approximately 25 cents per kilowatt per hour. These costs of course are calculated by the life cycle of the solar system generating electricity.

solar dish

Solar Incentives

There are three major ways in which solar power can be incentivized to allow it to flourish despite the costly expenses a user can expect to pay over its lifetime of use.

Government solar power incentives

Governments that offer solar power incentives for installation and usage is one of the most effective ways to produce a demand for the energy source. Human nature is not to be wasteful by default, however we sometimes waste limited resources to produce power for our day to day lives. Incentive programs provided by the government can help make its citizens both feel productive and receive a reward for utilizing a cleaner renewable power source rather than fossil fuels.

Electricity grid integration

Integrating a solar energy system, whether on a home or business, with the power grid run by the city or state is another good way in provide an incentive for more consumers to get on board with solar power. This allows the consumer to produce the electricity needed to cut out the need of fossil fuel energy and allows the consumer to sell any unused power to the electric companies for reuse among other areas of need. This allows the consumer to recoup some of the losses spent on installation along with generating typically a small source of income all while providing a renewable infrastructure to produce power for others.

solar power systems

Cut costs on current electricity bills

Finally, cutting the cost of your electricity bill is another benefit of employing solar energy in personal and business environments. Combining the power grid integration and government incentive programs allows many individuals to dramatically reduce their cost of electricity usage with the added benefit of improving the environment.

Overall it is common knowledge that integration of solar power can dramatically affect our current environmental state of well being along with creating a state of mind within the public that renewable energy is an excellent alternative to fossil fuels. Despite the benefits of utilizing the power of the sun, it is a costly endeavor which is currently creating a halt in the widespread implementation of this renewable power source. In the coming years we expect to see advancements in this technology to allow solar energy to become more cost effective and energy efficient, thus allowing it into a permanent part of our nation’s infrastructure to produce clean energy for our future.

Information referenced from http://www.getsolar.com/why_solar_types-of-solar-power.php

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