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The Basics of Solar Energy

solar energy the basics

Did you know that more solar energy reaches the earth in one hour than is used by the entire world in one year? Harnessing this energy has been a focus of research for many years. Today we can find the benefits of this research in many systems, ranging from photovoltaic solar systems to solar water heaters.

In fact, we’re seeing solar power being utilized now more than ever. This popularity is due to the constantly improving technology, decreasing costs, and government incentives. As a result, solar power is being used everywhere. Homeowners use solar power to help cover a big part, if not all, of the electric bill. Businesses also set up solar panels in an effort to cut overhead costs. Some utilities are even taking advantage of giant solar plants and providing cleaner energy to their customers.

The Two Types of Solar Technology

When it comes to generating electricity, solar technology can be divided into two categories: photovoltaic and concentrating solar power. Photovoltaic technology works by absorbing photons from sunlight into the solar panel, where an electric field is created.

Concentrating solar power is used to generate electricity in large solar plants. Using a series of mirrors, solar energy is reflected and concentrated onto receivers. These receivers collect the energy and convert it to heat. This heat is then used to produce electricity.

Concentrating solar power is not suitable for residential and commercial use, but photovoltaic solar power is.

Photovoltaic Systems

A solar panel is made of multiple photovoltaic (PV) cells. They are small in size, and individually, they produce around one or two watts of power. In order for these cells to produce the amount of energy that is required to power a home, they are linked together in chains. These groupings are known as panels or modules. Modules themselves are then linked together to form an array. It is this modular structure which offers a wide variety of customization options.

The PV system consists of mounting structures that help point the modules toward the sun. Also included are components which convert the direct-current (DC) electricity into alternating-current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is what most household appliances use.

Large systems can be found in California, where photovoltaic technology is actually used by utility companies to generate electricity and distribute it to customers. One of these power stations is called The Solar Star, and it produces 579 megawatts of electricity.

Is Solar Energy the Renewable Resource of the Future?

Solar energy is currently one of the most accessible resources thanks to the numerous cost benefits that are presented to homeowners. You may encounter upfront costs but rebates, incentives, and even long-term financial gain make it a very appealing investment. Looking forward, solar technology is definitely here to stay. Based on the fact that solar systems are becoming more efficient and cost effective, solar technology will continue to become popular with homeowners, businesses, and utility companies.





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