Solar is the most eco-friendly power source readily available to consumers today. A completely renewable resource, solar power does not produce any harmful emissions that can contribute to global warming. This “clean energy solution” compares favorably to other energy sources.
Oil is currently used for the majority of the world’s energy needs. Environmental issues aside, fossil fuels are a finite resource and are increasingly difficult to extract.
Wind EnergyWind power is the conversion of wind energy into electrical power. As an alternative to fossil fuels wind power is plentiful, renewable and clean. On the downside, wind turbines are rarely found in residential applications due to system sizing and sound pollution issues.
Biofuel production represents another renewable energy option. This Involves converting biological material, called biomass, into a usable fuel. Ethanol is an example of a bio fuel created from corn. Other biofuels currently in development include algae and seaweed, both abundant and renewable plant sources.
Solar energy and solar power are terms familiar to most people. Defined simply, solar power is the transference of the energy produced by the sun into energy we use on a daily basis. In an age of declining fossil fuels and increasing climate change harnessing clean energy from the sun has become the easy and intelligent choice. For the majority of residences and businesses there are two primary solar energy systems to consider.
Solar thermal technology (STE) is a technology for collecting solar energy for thermal energy (heat) and is widely used in residential and commercial applications.Solar panels or evacuated tubes can be mounted on a roof or installed as a standalone system. These panels and tubes are incredibly efficient at absorbing the heat of the sun and transferring that heat to water running into your home or business. Water then flows down to a storage tank and through a heat exchanger, heating water for daily use. This storage tank acts as a battery, storing up the sun’s energy for use when its needed.
Solar panels or evacuated tubes can be mounted on a roof or as a standalone. These panels and tubes are incredibly efficient at absorbing the heat of the sun and transferring that heat to water running into your home or business. Water then flows down to a storage tank and through a heat exchanger, thus heating water for daily use. This storage tank acts as a battery, storing up the sun’s energy so that you can use it when needed. Systems like this are attached to a back-up water heating system in the event of cloudy days or excess hot water needs.
There are also solar thermal systems designed for heating pools and even warming the walls and roofs of buildings in snowier climates.
Photovoltaic (Solar Electric)
Photovoltaic (PV) refers to the conversion of the sun’s energy into an AC current that can be used to power anything that uses electricity. The sun’s energy is collected through solar panel systems and directed into storage facilities for later use into the power grid for a credit against power consumed. This is the most widely implemented system for the majority of homes and businesses due to its affordability and reliability.
Photovoltaics, AKA Solar Cells, are essentially solid-state semiconductor devices designed to convert light into direct-current (DC) electricity.
These semi-conductors are mostly constructed out of silicon crystal, as is used in many computer and electronics components. The uppermost layer of the silicon portion of a solar panel is a mix of this silicon along with a small amount of phosphorous, thereby giving it a negative charge. The underlying layer, also the largest bulk of the panel, consists of silicon mixed with a small amount of boron, resulting in a positive charge.
The junction is the place where these two layers meet and create and electrical field. As the photons (sunlight) pass through the glass cover they also pass through an anti-reflective coating that effectively traps them and prevents their bouncing back into the atmosphere. This helps the photons be absorbed into the junction whereupon they displace the electrons in sufficient number that the electrons are forced past the junction area and flow to an external circuit.
Solar power PV modules (solar panels) can be mounted on your roof or on the ground to help power your home. The power generated by these modules runs through an inverter and can then be used to help power your home or business. Sun shining on the solar panels, generates electricity which will then be sent into your home helping to lower your power costs. An advantage to the grid-direct type of solar panel system is that you can use the sun’s energy during the day and the power company’s power during the night.
Even when you are away, and there is no or low power demand in your home, the excess power being generated from your solar power system will back feed onto the utility, earning you credits for future use. This is known as net metering.
Grid Direct with Battery Backup
This type of system operates the same as the grid direct solar system as described above, with the addition of batteries to provide electricity during utility outages.
This type of system has no connection to an electric utility. Off grid systems charge battery banks which power loads as needed. The source of the electricity can be renewable sources such as solar, wind, or micro hydro, or a backup generator. A backup generator may also be used in the event a source does not provide enough energy to charge the batteries. These types of systems are the most complex, expensive and require a significant amount of analysis & design.