Solar energy is a renewable resource that has been rapidly growing in popularity and demand. Since 2008, U.S. installations have grown 35-fold to an estimated 62.5 gigawatts (GW), which is enough to power 12 million average American homes. Not only is solar power a competitive energy source, but it has also opened the door to several jobs, with solar occupations increasing by nearly 160% since 2010.
So what is solar power? How does it work? And how are solar panels made? We’ve got the answers to these questions and more!
What Is Solar Power?
Solar power is energy generated by the sun to produce electricity for your home or business. The sun releases particles of energy, or photons, that help bring life and movement to our earth. Solar energy harnesses those photons for electricity.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
When the sun’s photons hit a solar panel, photovoltaic cells convert the photons into electrons that drive a flow of electricity called direct current (DC). DC cannot be used as electricity in your home without a solar inverter. Considered the brains behind the solar energy system, the solar inverter converts DC into alternating current (AC), which drives usable electricity to your home appliances.
If your solar panel produces more electricity than you need, then you can send it back to the grid and most utility companies will credit this extra energy towards your future bills or when you need it on cloudy days. You can also purchase a battery or other storage device that you can use to hold the extra energy.
How Are Solar Panels Made?
Solar panels come in three different cell structures and options:
- Monocrystalline solar panels – These panels are made from one large silicon block and cut into wafers. The silicon is made from a single crystal of silicon, which is why they are known to have a sleeker look and higher efficiency than polycrystalline. There is more room for the electrons to move in a single crystal.
- Polycrystalline solar panels – These panels are also made from silicon, but the wafers are made up of multiple fragments of silicon that are molded together. Because there are various crystals in each cell, there is less room for the electrons to move. Though they are not as efficient as monocrystalline, they are lower in cost.
- Amorphous silicon solar panels – These panels carry thin layers of silicon film stacked on top of each other. As indicated by the name, amorphous panels do not take any type of specific shape. They are not structured or crystallized like monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. The stacking of these thin films makes them more space-efficient.
Is Your House a Good Candidate for Solar Panels?
A solar panel can only be installed if you own your home. There are two important key factors you should consider when determining if this green technology is right for you:
You need a strong and durable roof so that it can withstand the weight of the solar panels. So, if you have an old roof, it’s highly recommended that you replace your roof before installing your panels, as these renewable resources can last up to 30 years. Concrete tile and composite shingles are great options for roofing materials.
Amount of Sunlight
Google’s Project Sunroof is a helpful resource to see if your home is viable enough to thrive on solar energy. By typing in your address, you can find out approximately how many hours of usable sunlight per year your home can get, how much money you can save using solar panels, and the amount of space you have for solar panels. Solar Tribune recommends that you need around 100 square feet of unshaded roof space for every kilowatt of electricity.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Now that you understand the basic facts and science behind solar power and panels, you might be wondering, how many solar panels do I need? The basic steps for calculating this includes:
- Looking at your past utility bills to determine the average amount of electricity you use per year by kilowatts (kWh).
- Dividing this average amount of electricity by 365 to get your daily energy usage in kWh. Some utility companies also directly provide this information to you on your bill.
- Dividing the value of daily energy use by two numbers that represent:
– The number of sun hours you get daily in your location.
– An inefficiency factor (situations where your system runs below optimized levels due to shade, cloudy weather, etc.) of 0.9.
- Once you get the overall output of your system from the step above, divide this by the energy rating of each panel, which can range anywhere from 275 to 350 watts per panel.
This final number will reflect the number of panels you need to drive sufficient electricity through your home. There are also online tools that can do these calculations for you.
As solar energy is growing, be sure to learn these facts and tools to help reduce your environmental impact and create a sustainable world today.
Contact Spring Power & Gas to learn more about how to make greener choices in your life. We strive to offset carbon footprint and build a safer and healthier world for you and your loved ones. Our friendly customer team is here to answer all of your questions.