Is Solar Energy Right For You
As power companies seek to address climate change and eco-conscious energy consumers recognize the benefits of generating their own electricity, solar energy is becoming a much more common source of electricity.
After being merely a blip on the radar as recently as 2010, U.S. solar energy capacity has grown by 50 times in the past decade to reach nearly 76 gigawatts, generating enough energy to power 19 million average households.
Most people have observed this trend toward clean energy, seeing neighbors buy solar panels, coming across solar installations on top of a local business or even driving by a full-sized solar farm. But is solar a good choice for your home?
For many homeowners, the decision comes down to cost. You can get a free, no-obligation estimate from a top solar company in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.
All EcoWatch solar companies are pre-vetted for your convenience.
Other Forms Of Solar Panels And Solar Power
There are emerging technologies in solar that present possibilities to create a step change in the efficiency of panels. These include graphene coating of solar cells, lightweight panels that dont use glass and are flexible. To see a more indepth review of the different types of solar panels and the different brands see this article.
Additionally there are alternate forms of solar power such as Concentrating Solar Power , where instead of solar panels, mirror panels are used to focus sunlight on a central tower where water is heated to high temperatures and is converted back to energy through steam turbines. Solar thermal panels work slightly differently as well, where the water runs through the panels in copper tubing that heats the water while it runs through the panel and returns to the hot water tank.
Compare quotes from up to 7 pre-vetted installers in your area now.
How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity
PV solar panels generate direct current electricity. With DC electricity, electrons flow in one direction around a circuit. This example shows a battery powering a light bulb. The electrons move from the negative side of the battery, through the lamp, and return to the positive side of the battery.
With AC electricity, electrons are pushed and pulled, periodically reversing direction, much like the cylinder of a car’s engine. Generators create AC electricity when a coil of wire is spun next to a magnet. Many different energy sources can “turn the handle” of this generator, such as gas or diesel fuel, hydroelectricity, nuclear, coal, wind, or solar.
AC electricity was chosen for the U.S. electrical power grid, primarily because it is less expensive to transmit over long distances. However, solar panels create DC electricity. How do we get DC electricity into the AC grid? We use an inverter.
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Common Solar Panel Sizes
60 cell panel : Approx width 0.98m x length 1.65m
72 cell panel : Approx width 1.0m x length 2.0m
96/104 cell panel: Approx width 1.05m x length 1.60m
66 cell panel – Approx width 1.10m x length 1.80m – New*
78 cell panel : Approx width 1.30m x length 2.3m – New*
HC = half-cut cells
A standard size 60-cell panel with 18-20% efficiency typically has a power rating of 300-330 Watts, whereas a panel using higher efficiency cells, of the same size, can produce up to 370W. As previously explained, the most efficient standard-size panels use high-performance N-type IBC or Interdigitated Back Contact cells which can achieve up to 22.6% panel efficiency and generate an impressive 380 to 400 Watts.
Popular half-cut or split cell modules have double the number of cells with roughly the same panel size. A panel with 60 cells in a half-cell format is doubled to 120 cells, and 72 cells in a half-cell format have 144 cells. The half-cut cell configuration is slightly more efficient as the panel voltage is the same but the current is split between the two halves. Due to the lower current, half-cut panels have lower resistive losses resulting in increased efficiency and a lower temperature co-efficient which also helps boost operating efficiency.
How Do Solar Panels Work: The Science
Weve now answered, what are solar panels made of? and how do solar panels work?, its time to explain the scientific process behind converting particles of light from the sun into energy. Not interested in the science behind solar panels? We recommend skipping this section and heading straight into the aspects that will affect your decision to purchase and install a solar panel package how much energy do solar panels produce?.
Solar panels are composed of many photovoltaic cells linked together that convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic cells were initially discovered by a French physicist, Edmond Becquerel in the 1800s, but it wasnt until 1954 that Bell Labs created the first practical silicon solar cell.
As previously explained, solar panels generate power through the power imbalances in the silicone discs or wafers that continuously correct each other. The N-type silicon is a pure form that has one extra electron. The P-type silicone has one less electron and impurities, typically from an infusion of boron. The result of this electron imbalance is that when the sun hits the solar panel, the electrons begin to move around, attempting to fix the others shortfalls. When photons, knock electrons free from atoms, it generates electricity.
The electricity collected from the solar panels is converted from direct current to alternating current through an inverter. The electricity feeds back into the propertys electricity system.
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How To Choose The Best Solar Panels
Look for panels from solar energy companies that have high efficiency rates and offer a comprehensive warranty on product and workmanship. High-efficiency panels let you produce the most power with limited space, and warranties reduce maintenance costs if you have problems with the system later on. Here are some tips to find durable solar panels that meet your energy production needs.
So How Do Modern Solar Panels Actually Work
Solar panels consist of 60 or 72 silicon cells. When sunlight hits these cells, electrons within the silicon at an atomic level are shaken free and move around. An electric current is simply the movement or flow of electrons in the same direction. A bolt of lightning, for example, is a sudden surge of electrons across a build-up of charge within clouds, or between clouds and the ground.
Looking in further detail, the silicon used in solar panels is adapted during the manufacturing process to improve the quantity of available electrons. Often phosphorus and boron are bonded to opposing layers of silicon. The phosphorus add additional available electrons and provides a negative charge, while the boron reduces the available electrons providing a positive charge. The resulting electrical field is primed for when sunlight hits the panel to deliver a flow of electrons to the junction between cells.
If you connect a group of these PV cells in a circuit within in a panel, and install a number of panels side by side, you can create a large flow of electrons and DC electricity. The electricity used in households, however, is AC 240 volts. Therefore a box called a solar inverter usually no bigger than your average shopping basket is used to convert the DC electricity to AC so it can be used immediately by occupants and the electricity grid.
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The Best Type Of Solar Panels
So are monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline vs. thin film panels better? The best type of solar panels depends on the purpose of the panels andwhere theyll be installed. For residential properties with a large roof space or property, the best choice of panels may be polycrystalline. These panels are the most affordable for large spaces and will provide enough efficiency and power. For residential properties with smaller spaces, monocrystalline solar panels may be the best choice. These panels work well for those who want to maximize their energy bills in a small space. Monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline solar panels are good fits for homes and other similar buildings. Thin-film solar panels are almost never used on homes because they are lower in efficiency. Instead, thin-film solar panels are perfect for commercial buildings that cant handle the additional weight of traditional panels. Though thin-film is less efficient, commercial roofs have more space to cover more of the roof with panels.
If youre not sure which of the types of solar panels will work best for your project or you want some guidance on understanding solar panel technology, our experts at8MSolarcan help you determine the right panels for your unique project.
Making The Right Decision About Solar Power
There are a lot of advantages to going solar, but itÃ¢s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of your particular goals and system.
If you are not sure if solar is right for you you can use our free solar calculator that will help you see if it makes financial sense and help guide you through the process.
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How Do Solar Cells Work
Artwork: How a simple, single-junction solar cell works.
A solar cell is a sandwich of n-type silicon and p-type silicon. It generates electricity by using sunlight to make electrons hopacross the junction between the different flavors of silicon:
Producing A Solar Panel
It is interesting to note that some solar panel manufacturers processes will only commence from this step and they purchase pre-produced solar cells from other manufacturers. Typical solar panels in Australia use 60 cells or 72 cells combined together in a single panel. Each panel will have top plexiglas sheet to protect the cells, an encapsulent material like EVA between each layer and a back sheet to protect the silicon from moisture and soiling. The solar panels are usually held together with an aluminium frame and have an output/input junction box when solar installers can easily string together solar panels in an array.
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How Much Power Can We Make With Solar Cells
“The total solar energy that reaches the Earth’ssurface could meet existing global energy needs 10,000 times over.”
European Photovoltaic Industry Association/Greenpeace, 2011.
In theory, a huge amount. Let’s forget solar cells for the momentand just consider pure sunlight. Up to 1000 watts of raw solar power hits each square meter of Earth pointing directly at the Sun .
In practice, after we’ve corrected for the tiltof the planet and the time of day, the best we’re likely to get ismaybe 100250 watts per square meter in typical northern latitudes. That translates into about 26 kWh per day.Multiplying up for a whole year’s production gives us somewherebetween 700 and 2500 kWh per square meter . Hotter regions clearly have much greater solarpotential: the Middle East, for example, receives around 50100percent more useful solar energy each year than Europe.
Unfortunately, typical solar cells are only about 15 percentefficient, so we can only capture a fraction of this theoreticalenergy: perhaps 410 watts per square meter.That’s why solar panels need to be so big: the amount ofpower you can make is obviously directly related to how much area youcan afford to cover with cells. A single solar cell can generate about 34.5 watts a typical solarmodule made from an array of about 40 cells could make about 100300 watts several solar panels, eachmade from about 34 modules, could therefore generate an absolutemaximum of several kilowatts .
How Many Watts Are Sunpower Panels
SunPower in the US sells solar panels up to 400w in their A-series. However, if youre looking for something larger, check out Maxeon Solar, their global company, and their Performance series, which goes up to 545w, which is very large for residential installations.
SunPower is one of the largest residential solar manufacturers in the world. Since they mainly target residential markets, they havent given in to the bigger is better trend sweeping the commercial solar market.
However, theyre still known as one of the most prominent solar players in the market, mainly for their jaw-dropping efficiency, high-quality panels, and extended warranties. Theres a reason why their name is associated with high-range solar products.
Ultimately, you probably wont need such high-wattage solar panels for residential installations, and 300w panels or smaller can easily suit your power needs.
Sunpower is also very expensive, and even their smaller wattage solar panels can be pricey. However, you get what you pay for in solar systems, and SunPower is known for its quality.
Theyve recently introduced a 40-year warranty for their Maxeon line of solar panels, unheard of in the solar market today. It speaks volumes about the quality and durability of their products, making them an excellent choice for solar installations.
What problems do solar panels solve?
What are 3 important uses of solar panels?
Do solar panels give you free electricity?
Do you save money with solar panels?
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How Does A Solar Panel System Work
Here’s an example of how a home solar energy installation works. First, sunlight hits a solar panel on the roof. The panels convert the energy to DC current, which flows to an inverter. The inverter converts the electricity from DC to AC, which you can then use to power your home. It’s beautifully simple and clean, and it’s getting more efficient and affordable all the time.
However, what happens if you’re not home to use the electricity your solar panels are generating every sunny day? And what happens at night when your solar system is not generating power in real-time? Don’t worry, you may still benefit through a system called “net metering.”*
A typical grid-tied PV system, during peak daylight hours, frequently produces more energy than one customer needs, so that excess energy is fed back into the grid for use elsewhere. The customer who is eligible for net metering may receive credits for the excess energy produced and can use those credits to draw from the grid at night or on cloudy days. A net meter records the energy sent compared to the energy received from the grid. Read our article on net metering and how it works.
What Are Solar Panels Made Of And How Are They Made
As solar energy becomes increasingly popular for residential use, youve probably had a few neighbors install solar panels and may even be thinking of getting a system for your own home. But before adopting this technology, you may be wondering: What are solar panels made of, and how are they made?
Many people simply accept that solar panels work and thats all we need to know about them, but for the scientifically and technologically curious, each individual solar panel contains a world of interesting components and materials. Keep reading to learn more about what actually makes up a solar panel.
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A Short History Of Solar Panels
The development of solar energy goes back more than 100 years. In the early days, solar energy was used primarily for the production of steam which could then be used to drive machinery. But it wasn’t until the discovery of the “” by Edmond Becquerel that would allow the conversion of sunlight solar electric energy. Becquerel’s discovery then led to the invention in 1893 by Charles Fritts of the first genuine solar cell which was formed by coating sheets of selenium with a thin layer of gold. And from this humble beginning would arise the device we know today as the solar panel.
Russel Ohl, an American inventor on the payroll of Bell Laboratories, patented the world’s first silicon solar cell in 1941. Ohl’s invention led to the production of the first solar panel in 1954 by the same company. Solar panels found their first mainstream use in space satellites. For most people, the first solar panel in their life was probably embedded in their new calculator – circa the 1970s!
Today, solar panels and complete solar panel systems are used to power a wide variety of applications. Yes, solar panels in the form of solar cells are still being used in calculators. However, they are also being used to provide solar power to entire homes and commercial buildings, such as Google’s headquarters in California.
What Does Marine Grade Mean
The standard of marine-grade refers to the wires ability to hold up against natural elements such as harsh rain, wind, and saltwater corrosion.
Therefore, if a marine-grade wire is good enough to survive a rough storm out on the open waters, its good enough for the roof of your van.
10AWG Stranded Wire
- Best wire size for solar arrays
- Designed to withstand harsh environments
- Built to withstand vibrations
Was This Solar Article Helpful? We have other posts dedicated to help you install a camper van solar system. Check out the guide for more great RV solar content!
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Con : Youll Need To Make Sure That Trees Stay Out Of The Way
Shade will absolutely wreck your solar electricity production. If you dont have any trees shading your roof today, thats great. But what if you have a little sapling in your yard? Will it grow up to be a big oak tree in a couple decades and ruin your solar production?
Before going ahead with a solar installation, take a careful look around your property, and make sure that landscaping wont be a problem after a decade or two of growth.