What is solar energy?
Solar energy is the light and heat from the sun that can either be used in its pure form or converted into usable heat or electricity. Solar energy is harnessed using various technologies, including photovoltaic and solar thermal.
How does solar energy work?
Solar energy is an exciting process of capturing sunlight and converting it into usable electricity or heat.
In the home, three types of solar energy systems generate electricity from the sun. These are off-grid solar systems, grid-connected solar systems, and hybrid solar systems.
Use of solar energy
Active solar energy
Active solar systems refer to systems that contain additional electrical components. There are four categories of such systems: solar space heating, water heating, small solar panels, and concentrated solar energy. The most common uses of active solar energy are:
- Indoor and outdoor lighting
- Operation of appliances such as televisions, freezers, and washing machines.
- Pump water
- Space heating
- Space cooling
- water heating
- Drive transport systems such as electric cars
- Passive solar energy
The system does not use any external mechanical or electrical devices with passive solar energy, as is the case with active solar systems. Instead, it depends on the exterior and interior design of a home or building. The constructions either shield a certain space from the sun or illuminate it. Passive solar shading applications include:
- Use of daylight
- Space cooling
- Space heating
- Types of solar panel systems
The installed system is independent of other energy sources in an off-grid system. Such a system generates electricity from the sun, which is then used in production or stored for later use. The electricity generated is consumed within the home or business premises. Relying on an off-grid system leaves you without power when the stored energy runs out, and the system cannot generate any more power.
The solar power system is connected to the electricity grid in a grid-connected system. In this way, the homeowners can generate their energy and, if necessary, also obtain electricity from the grid. The on-grid system has the advantage over the off-grid system in that the owner can switch to the grid if the solar system is not producing enough electricity. In addition, he can sell energy to utility companies during the hours when the solar system is producing too much electricity.
A hybrid solar system combines some elements of off-grid and grid-connected systems. As with an off-grid system, you can rely entirely on solar energy with a hybrid system. This is because a hybrid system has a battery bank that can store the electricity for later use.
However, a hybrid system allows the owner to either switch to the grid or sell excess energy from the sun to utility companies. These properties make hybrid solar systems preferred over off-grid and grid-connected systems.
Components of solar power systems
The entire process of capturing sunlight and using it to generate electricity requires the combination of different parts in a solar powered generator system.
Depending on the solar system’s structure, the components can include solar modules, charge controllers, battery banks, inverters, and grid meters. Electrical cables connect them. However, the size of the power cable varies depending on the components that are being connected.
All components are important. Each helps convert the sun’s energy into usable electricity that powers your home or business. To better understand the importance of the components of solar systems and how they work, let us look at them individually below.
Solar modules are the heart of every solar power system. They are therefore found in off-grid, on-grid, and hybrid systems.
Solar panels are important because they capture the sun’s rays and then use them to generate electricity. This process is made possible by the solar cells in the module and the photovoltaic effect.
When the sun’s energy hits the surface of a module in the form of protons, they are absorbed by the solar cells that make up the module. The photons then release electrons from the atoms that make up those cells. The free particles can then move through the cells, leading to the generation of direct current. The power generated by each cell is usually small. Therefore, the many solar cells in a module are connected in series to increase the electricity generated.
The electricity a single module can generate in a given time depends on its electrical output. However, you can still increase the amount of electricity generated by installing more solar panels connected to form a solar array. The higher the number of modules in a solar system, the more electricity is generated in a short time.
Depending on the nature of the site, the solar panels can be mounted on the roof, wall, poles, or ground where they need to be provided with stands. The only requirement is that the modules are aligned with the sun. Alternatively, they can be fitted with tracking systems that allow them to follow the sun’s direction. The positioning ensures that the modules capture energy from the sun for most of the day. With the solar panel calculator, you can estimate how many solar panels you need to install to meet your home’s daily electricity needs.
Battery storage is present in off-grid and hybrid residential solar systems. But why are accumulators so important? They are important because there are limitations in the generation of solar energy.
Solar panels can only generate electricity during the day. Therefore, homes or businesses that rely on solar energy may experience a lack of electricity at night because the solar system is not active during this time. Then the electricity generated by the solar panels during the day must be stored to be used at night or on days when there is not enough sunlight.
For this reason, battery storage is essential for those who rely entirely on solar power. 12 volt batteries ensure that the electricity generated by the solar modules during the day is stored for later use. Solar systems can also supply electricity at night and on days with unfavorable weather conditions.
Charge controllers are present in a residential solar system with a battery bank. Therefore, you only find this component in off-grid and hybrid solar power systems. Depending on the type of device, a charge controller fulfills different tasks in a solar power system.
The most important job of a charge controller is to regulate the voltage or current flowing from the solar panels to the battery bank. So he is responsible for monitoring the charging process of the batteries. This process is important because it protects against overcharging, which can easily damage the cells and thus affect the entire system’s performance.
Charge controllers also play an important role in blocking reverse currents. The modules do not generate electricity at night. Therefore, there is a risk that the current will flow back from the battery to the modules. This process can result in the loss of stored energy and even damage the solar panels. Charge controllers ensure this does not happen because they are designed so that the current can only flow in one direction.
It is worth noting that the panels can also block reverse flow. However, the charge controllers ensure they never have to by providing an extra layer of protection.
Charge controllers also have DC output terminals to which you can connect devices while charging the batteries. The clamps supply DC power, meaning they can only power DC devices or machines such as DC lights.
A pure sine wave inverter is important in any modern solar power system. If you’re still wondering why that is, here’s why.
Solar modules generate direct currents. This type of power cannot be used directly by most devices on the market today. Therefore, the direct current generated must be converted into alternating current, the most commonly used form of electricity.
An inverter is the only device that can convert DC power to AC power, making it an essential part of any solar power system. Unlike charge controllers and batteries, inverters are therefore found in off-grid, grid-tied and hybrid systems.
But how do inverters work in each of the three solar systems?
What does an inverter do? In an off-grid system, an inverter converts the DC power stored in the battery bank to AC power. The electricity is then used in the house or the business premises in the same way as the electricity grid.
In a grid-tied system without battery backup, an inverter converts the direct current generated by the solar panels directly into alternating current. As with off-grid systems, the direct current is not stored before being converted. The AC power is then used in the home or business, while the excess is fed into the grid.
In a hybrid solar system, installed inverters convert the direct current from the battery bank into alternating current. Similar to a grid-tied system, the power from the inverter is not only consumed in the home but can also be sold to utility companies.
A grid meter is a component in a solar power system that compares the amount of energy consumed by the customer from the grid with the amount of energy fed into the grid.
As previously mentioned, residential solar power systems can sometimes produce more electricity than is needed. In such cases, countries like the United States have an energy policy that allows the owner to sell the excess energy to utilities by feeding it into the grid.
If you, as a homeowner, decide to sell the excess electricity, you will need a device that will allow you to measure and display the amount of energy you have put into the grid. This is where net metering comes into play. It measures the energy going into the grid and the amount a home or business draws from it during the hours when the solar array isn’t producing enough. So the counter can sometimes run up or down.
It should be noted that net metering only applies to grid-connected and hybrid solar systems. The main reason is that these are the only solar systems connected to the electricity grid.
Benefits of solar energy
It lowers energy bills
Solar energy helps reduce energy bills by avoiding or minimizing dependence on expensive electricity from the grid.
People who do not have solar systems but are supplied with electricity from solar systems also benefit from lower energy costs. As the?
The production costs are usually lower than when using traditional energy sources. As a result, the price per unit of electricity supplied also falls.
Solar energy is renewable
Solar energy is obtained from a free and inexhaustible source, the sun. In contrast to fossil fuels, solar energy cannot be exhausted but will continue to provide electricity for future generations.
Solar energy is generated everywhere
Unlike other types of energy, solar energy can be generated in any geographic location. The reason for this is that the sun shines everywhere in the world. This makes it possible to use solar energy from almost anywhere.
The ability to generate solar energy from anywhere benefits those living in rural and remote areas and far from the grid. Why? They can install off-grid solar systems that provide the electricity they need.
Solar energy creates jobs
Solar energy benefits the community by creating employment opportunities. It increases the demand for solar products, leading to the creation of new companies and the growth of existing ones.
In addition, the demand for solar technicians who are responsible for the planning and installation of solar systems is increasing.
All of this contributes to the creation of more jobs, which has a positive impact on the communities. For example, it can lead to a higher standard of living and economic growth.
It doesn’t harm the environment
One of the main advantages of solar energy is that it is a renewable resource. Unlike traditional energy sources such as coal, it does not harm the environment by releasing toxic substances into the environment. It is, therefore, one of the energies whose increased use contributes to a sustainable future.
Solar energy has low operating and maintenance costs
Solar energy is a profitable long-term investment as the maintenance costs for the systems are low. Many of the components that make up the systems are durable, such as solar panels are even guaranteed for 20 years. Once a solar system is installed, running and maintenance costs are typically low, making it a viable long-term investment.