How Does Solar Energy Work?

How Does Solar Energy Work?

When you go outside on a sunny day, you can feel the warmth of the sunshine on your face. You open your curtains and blinds to let the sun’s rays brighten your home. Direct use of the sun’s energy can create light or a source of heat. A magnifying glass can capture the sun’s rays to form a small point of light hot enough to start a fire in a pile of kindling wood.

We often take the power of the sun for granted. We know every day it’s going to be there, whether we can see it on a clear day, or it’s hidden behind dark rain clouds. Solar energy uses the power of that same sun. Solar panel systems can do this by absorbing the sunlight and converting it into an energy source we can use to power the technology in our homes.

Solar Systems

Simply put, a solar system captures that same ray of sun that you feel on your face when you’re outside and converts it into a usable energy source. More specifically, solar panels, or photovoltaic systems, absorbs the energy from the sun into specially made cells and change the sunlight into DC, or a direct current power. Equipment called inverters then transforms the DC power into A/C or alternating current energy, or electricity. This is the type of electricity commonly used in the United States. This electricity is then routed through wires to power the appliances and technology in your home.

Some homeowners can use just solar energy as their power supply for their entire homes. Most use both a solar energy system and are connected to the grid to power their homes. Having a solar system helps to offset the generally high cost of traditional energy sources.

There are often incentives and credits for homeowners to install a solar system. In states such as Nevada, if the solar system absorbs more energy than your home uses in a month, your utility company is required to buy the excess power and credit your account for the times when you may need to use electricity from the traditional grid. This is an incentive for homes with solar systems that are still connected to utility companies, and use solar to offset the high cost of obtaining energy from industrial power plants fulltime.

Solar Panels and Batteries

As our technology improves, solar panels and the other equipment used in solar systems are becoming more advanced. New solar panel systems can capture more of the sun’s rays and convert more of it to usable energy. Innovative technology can move the solar panels to follow the sun’s path throughout the day, or angle the panels to best capture the sun’s rays.

The size of the panels themselves, although still quite cumbersome, are becoming lighter and thinner. This helps with the overall weight of the system the roof sustains where the panels are installed. With the panels being smaller in size, there is room for more equipment in the system. Solar systems with battery storage, called solar panel battery banks or solar plus storage systems, have extended the amount of time a home can run on solar energy alone.

Solar is a Renewable Energy Source

The reasons for having a solar system vary. Most people have a solar system installed for the cost reduction of energy use, or for a cleaner source of energy. More homeowners are installing solar to create environmentally friendly homes.

Solar energy is known as a renewable energy source. Renewable energy comes from natural sources that are self-sustaining and never run out. We consider our sun’s energy as an infinite power source, one that will never be depleted. At least, in not our foreseeable future.

The health of our planet’s environment depends on our scientists finding resources that are environmentally friendly and renewable. Most of the world’s energy is sourced from fossil fuels including coal, natural gas, and crude oil. These types of fuel sources will be eventually depleted from over-use. Also, when these types of fuels are burned for their energy they give off toxic substances that are harmful to our environment.

Solar energy systems absorb and convert the sun’s energy into electricity. The sun’s energy is a clean source of fuel, and safe for our environment. Unlike fossil fuels, when used as energy sunlight doesn’t give off any toxic fumes, or create any hazardous substances. It’s safe for our families and our environment.

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