You get the general idea. But like many of us you are probably curious: How does solar work in my home? Let’s take a closer look. Solar power is really very interesting. And you may be surprised what you thought you knew.
The Solar Basics
Solar rays are a form of power. They heat the day and provide visible light. Thanks to technology, we can convert this solar energy into electricity, the energy that we use to power our lives. Solar cells, which are typically placed on a roof, collect the solar energy and then the solar panel is able to change that energy into a useable form before routing it where we need it.
The Solar Cells
Solar cells are small squares shaped out of silicone and other conductive materials. Because these cells can conduct (direct) energy from one place to another, they are known as semi-conductors.
Sunlight is composed of photons. When sunlight strikes the solar cell, a chemical reaction takes place. The photons are converted into electrons, from which DC electricity is derived. DC or Direct current power is what is found in batteries. AC or alternating current is what you need to come out of your wall outlets. So before we can use the electricity, it must be converted again from DC to AC power. This sounds complex, but it all happens in a seamless process.
Your Solar System: Solar PV Components
A PV system components consist of:
- PV modules (groups of PV cells, AKA a solar panel),
- a battery or batteries,
- a regulator,
- an inverter (converts DC to AC),
- installation hardware (brackets, screws, etc.).
The modules are arranged and grouped in what is known as an array. Arrays are designed and installed to get the maximum efficiency out of the solar unit. Sun-tracking devices can further improve this efficiency. The typical home’s array is composed of 10-20 solar panels that work together to convert enough solar energy into usable electricity to power your home. Regardless of where a person lives in the lower 49, solar can be a cost effective and viable option, depending on the configuration of the array.
Solar Electricity Storage
None of us live in places where the the sun never sets. Life does not stop on cloudy or rainy day. In fact your energy usage may be higher in some circumstances. Because of this, systems are designed using various methods to store unused energy, either on your city’s electrical grid, a battery or in the solar panel itself. When your need is greater than production, it then works in reverse, releasing the stored up electricity and making it available for home use.
Powering Your World
The wires then route the energy down into your home so that you can access it by plugging in your smartphone, blender, refrigerator or TV. Through solar energy you can become completely independent of the electrical grid, as solar has become a economical and environmentally friendly option for obtaining power. Peter Diamandis, an Engineer and Entrepreneur, whose foundation encourages young people to innovate and develop technologies to benefit mankind, once said, “We live in a world bathed in 5,000 times more energy than we consume as a species in the year, in the form of solar energy. It’s just not in usable form yet.” Solar systems make that possible.