The Age Of Solar Panels
Its argued throughout the scientific community as to when the first photovoltaic cells were created. But scientists give credit for the invention to a French scientist Edmond Becquerel. He determined that light could increase electricity generation when two metal electrodes were placed into a conducting solution. This breakthrough was deemed the photovoltaic effect.
There were several other great minds involved in the process throughout the 1800s who worked with different products to find the best way to produce electricity. But it wasnt until 1954 that Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearsons created the silicon photovoltaic cell at Bell Labs. This event was significant because it was the first time that a solar cell could power an electric device for several hours a day. The first-ever cell could convert energy at just 4% efficiency. Thats a huge difference from the almost 50% efficiency thats been obtained today.
As you can see, solar panels have come a long long way from where they first started. Not only are they much more complex and efficient but scientists today are still working towards making these systems more and more efficient so that you can save more money and pay less to get them installed.
The Science Of Solar Panels In Depth
Silicon solar cells, through the photovoltaic effect, absorb sunlight and generate flowing electricity. This process varies depending on the type of solar technology, but there are a few steps common across all solar photovoltaic cells.
First, light strikes a photovoltaic cell and is absorbed by the semiconducting material it is made from . These incoming photons cause electrons in the silicon to be knocked loose, which will eventually become the solar electricity you can use in your home.
There are two layers of silicon used in photovoltaic cells, and each one is specially treated, or doped, to create an electric field, meaning one side has a net positive charge and one has a net negative charge. This electric field causes loose electrons to flow in one direction through the solar cell, generating an electrical current. The elements phosphorus and boron are commonly used to create these positive and negative sides to a photovoltaic cell.
Once an electrical current is generated by loose electrons, metal plates on the sides of each solar cell collect those electrons and transfer them to wires. At this point, electrons can flow as electricity through the wiring to a solar inverter and then throughout your home.
Solar : How Solar Energy Works
Have you ever looked at the solar panels on roofs and wondered exactly what they do, and how? Well, those hi-tech expanses of shimmering glass are actually just one component in a complex network that harnesses the suns renewable energy to deliver electricity to the home within.
Lets take a simple, step-by-step look at how solar power works.
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How Does The Photovoltaic Effect Work For Solar
For solar panels, the photovoltaic effect occurs when photons from the suns rays hit the semi conductive material in the cell of the solar module. The photons activate electrons, causing them to free themselves from the semiconductive material.
Due to the structure of a solar panel, the free electrons move in a single direction through the junction of the panel. This movement creates an electrical current that is then sent to an inverter to be harnessed by your home.
Prep Your Home For Installation
Lastly, youll need to ensure your home is ready for solar installation. Removing trees that might be in the way and making sure that your roof is in good shape are two of the most important parts of this process. A solar professional will tell you what work you might need to be done to ensure that your home is ready for the new solar panels to be installed.
When youre ready to get solar installed on your home, wed love to hear from you!Sun Badger Solar is currently installing solar panels in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida. Reach out to us for afree solar estimate and to learn more about the services that we offer to our solar customers.
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What Type And How Many Solar Panels Does Your Home Need
Depending on the maker, solar panels come in all different shapes, sizes, build qualities, and power outputs. Youll want to speak in-depth with a professional solar system installation consultant to determine the best and most efficient solar panels for your home. However, for todays article, well use SunPowers A-Series Solar Panels as our example.
Panels range in wattage capacities with conventional solar panels typically starting at around 250 watts per panel. SunPowers A-Series panels produce up to 400 watts per day per panel in peak conditions. Therefore, if we divide the energy needed to power the average home, 6,000 watts, by the 400 watts produced by each panel, we would determine that the average home requires at least 15 A-Series panels to run entirely off of solar energy in peak conditions.
Best Solar Options For Your Home
Before you make the decision to invest in solar panels for your home, there are several factors you need to consider. There are, as discussed above, a relatively large variety of solar panel types to choose from, so it is important that you discuss your personal energy needs and budget with your solar professional before making your final decision.
Your professional will also be able to tell you the best angle, direction, and size required in order for your solar panels to achieve maximum output. Generally speaking, a 5 kilowatt panel would probably be suitable for a family home.
.If cost is an issue, there are several government grants and community solar projects that can help to spread the cost of your solar panels over a period of timesome areas even have local solar parks that can be accessed by members of the community for a much lower cost.
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Is A Standby Generator Or Solar Battery System Better For You
Instead of buying a generator, you can install a solar battery to provide backup power to your home in the event of an outage. Whether a generator or a solar battery is best for you really depends on the reasons why you want to install a backup system in the first place.
A standby generator is best if you live somewhere that regularly experiences multi-day power outages and you want to be able to power your entire home, as generators offer more power than a solar battery can. Generators also tend to be cheaper than a solar battery storage system.
If youre looking to have access to emergency backup power for a day or two that can power your most important loads , and you also want to reduce your day-to-day reliance on the utility, then a solar battery is a better choice.
Another benefit to solar batteries is that you can use them daily to maximize the amount of solar energy your home uses. Plus, a battery can keep your solar panels running when the grid is down – something a generator cannot do.
You can maximize your home’s resilience against power outages by installing both a solar battery and a standby generator. Much like with solar panels, a generator and battery cannot power your home at the same time. When the power goes out, the solar battery will power your home first until it is depleted. Then the generator will kick in.
Below, solar expert William White discusses pairing solar generators and batteries with solar systems.
How Can Solar Energy Power Your Whole House
So, can a home solar system really power your entire house? As weve stated, yes! But, it does depend on a few variables that youll want to take into consideration when deciding to go solar. Mostly, these variables are used to determine the power output levels and the number of solar panels that your home requires to meet your energy goals. In this case, well explore the goal of running your whole house entirely on solar power.
Every home is different, and every home will require a unique amount of solar panels in order to effectively convert the suns energy into the energy you can use to power your home. At SunPower by BlueSel, we understand how to install your panels at the perfect angle, in the perfect spot, to maximize sun intake. Installing your solar panels in the perfect spot can make a big difference in regard to energy.
HowStuffWorks.com explains perfectly how solar panels can power an entire house:
As solar panels protrude from the precipice at various angles, they capture whatever sunlight is available, and convert it to DC power. An inverter converts the DC power to AC power . And for people who want to completely power an entire home with the suns rays, there are systems available to convert and store extra power in the form of battery energy.
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Lets Say That Youve Decided Not Only To Go Solar But You Want To Go All
If youâve used our solar calculator or looked at the map of solar homes around you, youâll know that going solar is pretty easy and increasingly common. As the price continues to drop, it becomes affordable for more people. But what if you want to go completely solar? What if you donât want to use any fossil fuels at all in your home?
Yes, itâs possible for solar panels to supply all of the electricity your home needs. The first step is to maximize your energy efficiency with insulation, air sealing, and efficient appliances. Then, move off fossil fuel heating to electric heat pumps, and replace gas cooking and water heating with electric. Once youâve done that, a correctly sized photovoltaic system can be used to power everything in your home. But does it make sense?
This guide will explain how you can go completely solar in your home. But before we launch into it, letâs clarify what it really means when we talk about making your house completely solar.
- Want to generate all of your current electricity usage with solar, but leave some appliances, like your stove and furnace, using fossil fuels?
- Or do you want to move 100% of your home energy use to solar? This is called net zero.
Excess Solar Power Is Exported To The Grid
If you have solar panels installed, its common to generate more solar power than your total electrical loads require . When this happens, the excess energy flows out from the home to the electric grid via your utility meter.
The utility meter will need to be a special net meter, which can keep a separate record of what electricity you export to the grid and what you consume from the grid.
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How Is Solar Energy Used In Your Home
The power generated by your solar system is direct current . Your inverter then captures the DC energy and transitions it to alternating current in order to make it in a usable state for your home.
Most home solar systems are grid-tied meaning that youre interconnected to the utilitys electric grid and the electrical system of the home. The connection is typically through the main electric service panel, although some systems are tied into sub or distribution panels.
During daylight hours, the AC electricity output by the solar inverter is backfed onto the main service panel, and that electricity is used up by any loads or demand , thereby making the solar panels work and produce power for your home.
How Does Battery Storage Work With Solar Energy
Up until now, weve only discussed the most popular type of solar installation in the United States, grid-connected solar systems.
You may have noticed that these systems operate without any batteries. When the grid is available, as it is for most people, the addition of batteries to a home solar energy system is optional.
Furthermore, buying solar battery storage usually doesn’t make economic sense. Battery storage solutions are expensive and have relatively short lifespans, so they dont usually pay for themselves.
That said, battery storage solutions are rising in popularity, aided by the emergence of versatile lithium-ion solutions like the Tesla Powerwall.
Here are the two common scenarios where homeowners choose to use battery solutions with their solar panel systems:
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Whats The Best Solar Heater For Your House
Solar thermal panels will capture more of the suns energy as heat, but for most homes in the United States, the best way to heat your house with solar power is to install a heat pump and photovoltaic solar panels. Theres a few reasons for this:
In other words, while a solar thermal collector will capture more solar energy to heat your home, other practical considerations mean that most people are better off using the more popular technology combination of photovoltaic panels and a heat pump.
That said, there are a wide variety of home solar heating systems, ranging from passive solar to active solar using ground or air-source heat pumps. Each of these techologies have benefits that might suit your home, so its worth learning about them.
Find Out How Solar Power Works
Solar power works by converting light from the sun into electricity. This electricity can then be used in your home or exported to the grid when its not needed. This is done by installing solar panels on your roof which generate DC electricity. This is then fed into a solar inverter which converts the DC electricity from your solar panels into AC electricity.
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Step : Sunlight Activates The Panels
Each individual panel is constructed of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing surrounded by a special film, and wiring. For maximum effect, the panels are grouped together into arrays and placed on rooftops or in large outdoor spaces. The solar cells, which are also referred to as , absorb sunlight during daylight hours.
Where Does Solar Panel Shade Come From
Shade on your solar panels can come from several sources.
Trees: Perhaps most obviously, trees near your solar array can cause shading issues. Many residential properties are situated in green spaces, and constantly growing trees and foliage can encroach on solar panel setups.
Other panels: In addition to trees, solar panels can actually be shaded by other nearby panels. Depending on the panel setup, neighboring panels can cast shadows over lower panels in the same system. This issue typically only arises in ground installations.
Your roof: Panels can actually be shaded by the roof they are on. Depending on the suns angle and the time of day, different parts of a roof can block sunlight to certain panels. Use the EnergySage Solar Calculator to determine the solar potential of your property while factoring in local shading.
Clouds: We cant discuss shade without mentioning clouds. Despite the fact that clouds do technically block out the sun and cast shade, you shouldnt worry about solar production on cloudy days. Clouds still let some sunlight through, which means solar panels still can produce energy, albeit at a lower efficiency. You can think about cloudy days and solar production the same way you might worry about getting sunburned on a cloudy afternoon. If youre outside, you still need to be careful and apply sunblock to avoid getting burned.
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How Is Electricity Generated
So class, we know how electricity works , how its distributed as AC electricity and used as DC electricity , and how the power grid works to orchestrate getting this electricity to our homes and buildings . Way to go!
Nowhow do we get the dang stuff into the wires in the first place!? Great question! And a central question to understanding why renewable energy sources are better for the environment.
The standard method uses electromagnetic induction. How it works is you spin a magnet within a coil of wire, and the magnetic field creates an electric field in the coil and electrons flowonce again, the Bill Nye episode may have introduced this to you already.
There is very advanced physics behind this, so just take my word for it that it works! Every method of electrical generation except for batteries and solar panels use this principle.
The difference between energy sources is how you spin the magnet. *Idea light bulb turns on!*
Fossil fuel sources use the heat generated from burning them to create steam, which spins a turbine with a magnet.
Its the same process with renewable energy sources: Hydroelectric plants use flowing water to spin a turbine attached to a magnet. The center of a windmill fan is itself a turbine with a magnet. Concentrated solar power systems use mirrors to focus sunlight into a high energy beam that creates steam to turn a magnet.
Turbines inside the Hoover Dam
Calculating Solar Power Costs
Once the above costs and benefits are determined, a solar system can theoretically be evaluated using the discounted cash flow method. Outflows at the beginning of the project would consist of installation costs , and inflows would arrive later in the form of offset electricity costs .
Rather than using DCF, the viability of solar power is usually evaluated by calculating the levelized cost of electricity , then comparing it to the cost of electricity charged by the local utility. The LCOE for household solar will typically be calculated as cost/kilowatt-hour – the same format commonly used on electricity bills. To approximate the LCOE, one can use the following equation:
LCOE = Net Present Value of the Lifetime Cost of Ownership / Lifetime Energy Output
The useful life of a PV solar module is generally assumed to be 25-40 years. The cost of ownership includes the maintenance costs, which must be discounted to find the NPV. The LCOE can then be compared to the cost of electricity from a utility remember, the relevant price is that which occurs during times at or near peak PV solar production.
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