Understanding how solar power works is an essential step that is necessary before choosing a home solar system to setup in their household. Such a home having its own solar power plant can generate about 75-100% of their energy. This converts into increased savings for the consumer in the future since the price of electricity continues to increase with the increase in inflation.
The concept of solar power generation is quite simple. The solar power cells use the energy of photons found in sunlight in order to create electrical current. This conversion effectively transforms sunlight into electricity.
What are photons? These are atomic particles found at the core of the sun. It takes a million years for a photon to reach the sun’s surface. However, it takes only eight minutes for a free photon to reach the face of the earth even after traveling a distance of 93 million miles. The sun’s energy has been powering our earth for trillions of years thereby feeding plants, refreshing and redistributing water supplies to create different forms of energy like fossil fuels in order to power the civilization.
Photovoltaic means the process of transformation of light into energy at an atomic level. Many materials possess photoelectric effect, which helps them absorb photons and release electrons. Electric current flows when the free electrons are stored thereby creating usable electricity.
A photovoltaic module helps to supply electricity using a constant minimum voltage, which is generally 12 volts. The module’s design features many inter-connected solar cells mounted on a frame for support.
Many modules join to form a string of array. The larger the array, the greater will be the generation of electricity. These maybe connected in series or in parallel to generate the exact voltage along with the current combination.
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Solar power is much better for our environment than other forms of traditional energy. Solar power has many applications. Water heating plants are run and electricity can be produced by using solar energy. It is also suitable for running small appliances, like attic fans, bulbs etc., for heating swimming pools or for powering cars and for cooking food.
Governments across the world understand the importance of the solar power facts and try to install more solar power generation capacities in their respective countries.
The Department of Energy states that the cost of supplying electricity to each American household in the year 1999 was $70.68. Average American household electricity consumption was approx 866 kW hours / month in 1999.
Another solar power fact is that its global production is much lower than its demand so there is a demand supply mismatch thereby making the cost of using solar power quite high for an average household in any country.
Let us also understand some solar power facts related to its calculation…
Solar power is measurable in kWh where 1 kW is equal to 1000 watts.
One kWh is the quantity of electricity consumable while burning a 100-watt bulb for about 10 hours.
Let us now try to understand the usage of solar electricity on the domestic front…
Any home solar system typically comprises of solar panels, inverter, battery, charging controller and wiring with supporting structure.
One kW home solar system requires a couple of days for installation and costs somewhere around 10,000 USD. However, this price may vary. DIY method costs much less.
A solar panel comprises of around 40 solar cells. A total of 10-12 panels are kept mounting in an array with their face due North in order to receive the maximum amount of sunlight for effective power generation. Such systems normally feature 5 years of warranty if purchased from a reputable firm.
Another solar power fact is that it can be stored, insulated, reflected, absorbed and transmitted for various purposes.
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Innovations for solar power efficiency can be the next big growth opportunity for the power sector. But, the solar industry is still struggling in order to make its presence felt across the world since the governments everywhere only provides subsidies to the wealthiest global oil and gas companies.
Let us try to digest some statistics. Currently, the total installed solar power capacity, globally, adds up to a meager 16 GW. That number is set to grow to 1800 GW in the next two decades, which will also make this industry, the biggest employment generation sector in the world. Chinese engineers are now providing this technology with much improved solar panel efficiency.
If you are a first time solar panel user, then these statistics will encourage you.
However, if you have been using solar panels for some time and still struggling to get the maximum out of your installed solar panels, then here are a few factors that will improve your solar panels efficiency:
The roof of your house must face south if you want to generate and use solar power efficiently. However, certain panel designs allow you to have different orientations.
Panel and Roof Pitch
The pitch of the roof affects the number of sunlit hours that your house receives on a typical sunny day. Larger systems have solar monitoring systems in place, which can follow the tilt of the sun throughout the day and adjust the solar panel efficiency accordingly. It is an expensive technology and is not in use for domestic purposes.
Some panels require a substantial amount of heat to function effectively. On the contrary, a few require cooler surroundings. Therefore, it is imperative to install these panels at the rooftop with proper air circulation for cooling them down. Some solar panels are more efficient in hot climatic conditions.
Shade can cause a lot of disruption in the generation of solar power. Shade on a single panel is sufficient to bring down the production of the other panels in the circuitry. Therefore, it is advisable to get a proper shading analysis done before you setup those equipments in order to get better solar panel efficiency.
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India is near the equator and receives a lot of sunlight during the day. In a year, India has about 300 sunny days. This, and the huge population of the country, has driven its leaders to undertake measures to provide clean, renewable energy to its citizens.
Obtaining renewable energy is not new for India, as it is already a leader when it comes to wind energy. Having 300 sunny days in a year, or 1500-2000 sunny hours per year can generate about 5 petawatt hours yearly, which is equivalent to 5 trillion kilowatt (KW) hours per year.
In 2005, the government-supported solar energy projects produced about 6.4 megawatts (MW) of power for that year alone. The promising results have prompted the government to move further along with solar energy. The government has already started with solar energy by allotting 35,000 square kilometers of the Thar Desert for solar energy plans, where they plan to harness 700-2100 gigawatt (GW) of power.
The country’s commitment to make renewable and clean energy was revealed in July 2009, when the government unveiled its $19 billion plan to reap 20 GW of solar energy by the year 2020. In this proposal, the government will require all government buildings, hotels, and hospitals to make use of solar power. In November the same year, India prepared to present its National Solar Mission project, which is sanctioned by the National Action plan on climate change. This proposal hopes to create 1000 MV of solar energy by the year 2013.
Now India is at the top together with the United States in terms of the production of solar energy. The already-functioning solar energy plants in the country are the Sivaganga Photovoltaic Plant, the Kolar Photovoltaic Plant, the Itnal Photovoltaic Plant, the Azure Power Photovoltaic Plant, the Jamuria Photovoltaic plant, the Thyagaraj Stadium Plant, and the NPDC Photovoltaic Plant.
Factors that further inspire the government’s drive for solar energy development have fallen into place all at the same time. First and foremost, solar panels made in China and the United States have dropped in price. Secondly, government advocacy and the presence of renewable solar energy products have been widely available. Lastly, the need for energy has been constantly increasing. It has been noted that there’s a 10-13% electricity deficit in India. With the booming population and the technological advancements taking place in the country, solar energy can make up the electrical deficit for a very low price.
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Kids whose interests are in learning new things from exciting activities or programs should definitely look for some interesting solar energy projects appropriate for their age. These are projects that adolescents and teenagers are capable of doing as they do not require any special or very complicated technology.
There are a significant number of schools, universities, and other organizations that offer great solar energy projects for kids. Here are some examples of solar energy projects or activities with brief descriptions to help one understand what exactly the project is about.
Sun Chaser Program Solar Kits. This program is offered by the New Mexico Solar Energy Association (NMSEA) – a non-profit education organization established in 1972. The Sun Chaser Program involves a mobile trailer that contains solar kits such as solar oven, fuel cell demo, solar panel and fan, small and larger PV systems, and other interesting solar projects such as a solar home model. Upon request, the trailer may visit specific schools or areas within New Mexico for demonstrations.
Rainbow Pinwheel. This is a very simple project, designed for kids 4 years old and above, that shows the nature of white light. It can also be extended learn about complementary colors. The materials needed are readily available and the procedures are easy to follow.
Melting Ice Cubes. This project aims to make the kids understand the heat absorbing capacity of each color background as demonstrated by the melting of the ice cubes during the experiment. This experiment is for kids aged 4 and above.
Solar Oven. This is a very simple project that would show the power of solar energy. In this project, the heat of the sun is absorbed and concentrated in one small space where a cooking pot can be placed to heat water, toast bread, or cook rice.
Water Purification. Kids 8 years old and above can do this project which demonstrates how the sun can be used to purify water that have been mixed with salt and other household items such as curry powder and sugar.
All of the programs mentioned above are easy to do and involve materials that are readily available. Kids will surely enjoy performing these activities. Parents couldn’t ask for anything more as their children not only enjoy but at the same time learn precious knowledge in doing them.
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The world uses different sources of electricity. Power suppliers use a wide range of sources of energy for production of electricity in their power plants. They have the choice of using solar energy, hydroelectric power, fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, and petroleum, liquified petroleum gas, geothermal power, biogas, wind power, nuclear power, and even diesel fuel. Most advanced countries are mainly dependent on the use coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants. Despite the known benefits of solar photovoltaic panels, solar power provides less than 3% of the electricity needs of most countries worldwide.
The problem with these major sources of electricity is that most of them have negative impacts on the environment. Coal power plants emit a great amount of carbon dioxide; natural gas power plants emit less carbon dioxide than a coal plant but emit more methane which is more dangerous; nuclear power plants are very dangerous and leave hazardous waste; while hydroelectric power plants force humans and animals to relocate, cause floods, affects the water supply, and somehow changes the balance of fish in the surrounding rivers and other bodies of water.
Solar energy through the use of solar photovoltaic panels does not have these negative side effects to the environment. With the use of solar energy in the production of electricity, the consumers and the environment will enjoy the following benefits of solar photovoltaic panels:
(a) It is safe and clean.
(b) The raw material (solar) needed for the production of electricity is free and renewable.
(c) It does not require maintenance.
(d) The panel is made of durable materials and parts.
(e) There will be no pollution thus it is environment-friendly.
(f) The world’s electricity consumption dependent on other non-renewable energy sources will be put to a minimum.
(g) There will be minimal (or if completely self-sustaining, zero) monthly electricity bill that will translate to significant savings.
(h) Solar photovoltaic panels reduce carbon footprint and helps fight climate change.
(i) Some countries buy excess energy that a household produces.
(j) Solar photovoltaic panels are widely available as it is made from silicon.
(k) It is better than most investments.
Power producers and even households should think about using solar energy to enjoy these benefits of solar photovoltaic panels. With this free and renewable energy source, the only investment that needs to be made is in initial set up the photovoltaic panels themselves. The initial investment is a bit expensive but once set up, investors would reap the benefits for a long time with almost no maintenance cost!
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If you’re considering green living, solar panel installation is efficient method of converting the sun rays into a renewable and clean source of energy. Before starting the installation process, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind to get more power from your solar panels.
Avoid Visibly Obstructed Areas
Whether installing solar panels on the roof of your home or opt for those that can be mounted in the ground, it’s essential that the location receives direct sunlight. This means solar panel installation away from hanging tree branches, tall bushy shrubs, and shadows from neighboring houses or buildings. Obstructions blocking the sun essentially make solar panels useless, especially if you live in an area prone to fog, clouds and significant annual rainfall amounts. Take an assessment of several locations that receives optimal sunlight before making a final decision.
Although neighborhood houses are often cookie-cutter floor patterns, the visibility from roof surfaces vary greatly. This is important to understand when trying to determine the optimal location for your solar panel installation. A recent study from the University of Gothenburg conducted a pilot project using a special tool that calculates conditions to establish the total solar radiation of a specific area as well as implied shadows. The tool is proving to be useful in calculating conditions for individual roofs to entire towns.
The tool utilizes a geographical information system computer program that collects, stores, evaluates, and produces geographical data. The three-dimensional program simulates actual physical locations and precise in calculating the surrounding environment including buildings, landscapes, and even vegetation growth.
Titling Solar Panels
Once you have found the location in which you plan to install your solar panels, it’s important to tilt them properly according to where you live for optimal solar electricity. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, solar panels should always face south. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, then the panels need to be tilted facing the north.
Also, keep in mind your distance from the Equator when determining the appropriate tilting angles. The greater the distance away, the greater tilt of the panels is required. Latitude lines are very useful in helping you to calculate tilt as well. To get more from your solar panels in the winter months, it’s necessary to reposition the panels a minimum of 55 degrees to adjust for seasonal changes of the Earth’s rotation around its axis.
Finally, in addition to solar panel installation in locations receiving direct sunlight and tilting appropriately, routine maintenance is equally important. Maintaining solar panels and keeping them free of debris is also how to get more power from your solar panels.
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More and more homeowners are opting to purchase energy saving appliances. The initial purpose of the Energy Star label was to help in reducing and eliminating harmful greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants by wasting energy. The Energy Star logo is symbolic of energy efficiency and protecting the environment. The logo found branded on energy efficient appliances approved by the federal government help customers to make an informed buying decisions and offer energy saving tips.
Energy saving appliances includes big-ticket items that are known to consume significant amounts of energy while in use. Items such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, computers, printers, cordless phones, windows, doors, air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps, light fixtures, ceiling fans and water heaters are among popular Energy Star items.
Home appliances and other household items must meet specific energy efficient guidelines that are based on Energy Star product specifications. These provisions are established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure the products are actually doing what the labels claim. The products bearing the Energy Star label indicate the item typically uses on average 25% less energy than those mandated by federal standards.
The government agency bases the specifications on the following main established principles:
• Significant energy savings must be nationwide.
• Products should perform without compromising quality or comfort while being energy efficient.
• The energy consumption and performance ability of individual products must be able to be measured and verified via testing.
• The Energy Star Label differentiates among products visible for customers to make an informed decision.
Available Tax Credits on Energy Star Appliances
In addition to saving on energy costs, homeowners may also take advantage of federal tax credits for Energy Star appliances. It’s important to note that not every Energy Star product qualifies for a tax credit. Such products are often those that are typically more expensive than standard models, however, customers receive a financial break from a reduction in energy costs over a reasonable duration of time.
The most utilized tax credit is 10% of costs (not exceeding $500) or$50 -$300 over a certain period of time. These credits are only available for existing residential homes; rentals and new construction don’t qualify. Energy Star appliances included in the tax credit include: biomass stoves, insulation, roofs, water heaters, windows, doors, heating, ventilating and air conditioning.
There are other tax breaks for energy saving appliances and products, however, homeowners must invest more to install solar energy systems, small wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps and fuel cells. While it’s not feasible for many homeowners to make such an investment, for many others, the Energy Star savings are a worthwhile venture.
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Solar energy homes are leading the way into the 21st century. With the continuous soaring energy costs, more homeowners are opting to go green to save on heating expenses. Although solar energy isn’t a new concept as ancient civilizations harnessed the sun’s rays centuries ago, modern advances in technology reveals more efficient and effective methods of successfully utilizing solar power.
Solar energy is typically used for powering home heating systems and supplying hot water. While not a precise science, knowing the best places may take a little research on your behalf. Obviously, the best location for solar energy collection is one in which receives plenty of sunlight, however, it doesn’t always mean it has to be installed in a warm climate.
In fact, a recent study reveals that promising solar energy goldmines include the Himalayas, Andes and Antarctica. Although temperatures often plummet to 50 degrees below freezing, energy produced from the sun is harvested from the 24 hours of sunlight that’s abundant for at least half of a year’s time.
For solar energy homes in the Northern Hemisphere sunlight is often a little more of a challenge to harness. Roofs are ideal locations for solar panels to be installed as the areas receive direct sunlight. Solar panels are also available that can be mounted on adjustable stands secured in the ground.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the panels should be facing towards the south; for those living in the Southern Hemisphere, then installation should be pointing towards the north. The distance you live away from the Equator determines how much the panels should be titled. The further away you live, the more of a tilt is required. Use the latitude line in which the panels will be installed as a good benchmark for tilting degrees. Also, during the winter months it’s important to increase the position of the panels at least 55 degrees to compensate for the seasonal tilting of the Earth’s axis.
In addition to knowing the best location for solar energy installation, there are a couple of other things to keep in mind. Solar panels that aren’t angled toward the sun are basically useless. Before installing, locate areas of direct sunlight whether it’s on the roof or backyard. Also, avoid installing solar panels in the path of any obstructions. Trees, leaves, branches, buildings, and utility poles are among the most common obstacles. Cloud cover can also be a temporary avoidable obstruction.
Regardless of the solar energy products you install in your home, they are a great way to save on heating costs while conserving energy using renewable resources.
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Solar energy has been around for years, and so have solar companies, each jockeying for position to be the most successful.
Solar energy is also the fastest growing renewable energy source in the world. Companies that produce solar energy or solar energy products compete against each other, therefore the prices are driven down. There are different types of solar energy companies so to try and say which one is the best overall is difficult to do. These listed here are not listed from best to worst; they are just listed as the top solar energy companies and only five out of the many in each category.
PV or Photovoltaic Panels Top Companies (only five of many)
1. First Solar - US based Cadmium Tellurium (Cd-Te); they are the lowest cost panel producer. The panels have a lower efficiency than those of some of the other companies but they cost much less to buy.
2. Sharp - The Japanese electronics giant. Largest solar company in the world by revenue in 2009. Sharp is not able to grow fast enough with the rising Chinese solar energy companies with major companies Chinese companies seeing a growth of 100% in revenues.
3. Suntech – The world’s biggest producer of solar energy panels in 2010 and one of the first companies to set up operations in China.
4. Yingli Green Energy – One of the oldest Chinese companies and is completely integrated from polysilicon, meaning that they have completely integrated only using polysilicon for their products. It is rapidly expanding in growth.
5. Trina Solar - one of the lowest cost manufacturers of solar energy panels in the world and sells at a very low price as well. The prices of their panels are around $340 per 200-watt module.
Thermal Solar Energy Top Companies (only five out of many)
1. Brightsource Energy – This company develops and sells solar thermal power systems. They are a privately held company within the USA and Israel.
2. Solar Millennium – One of the most aggressive players in solar thermal energy. They are building CSP (concentrated solar power) planes in Africa, Europe, India and USA. They use parabolic trough technology, a type of solar energy collector. They also provide a turnkey solution from technology to design in EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction).
3. Abengoa - Well known supplier of solar thermal equipment. It is a proven developer of large scale solar plants in Spain and USA.
4. Areva - Also a large renowned electrical equipment conglomerate that supplies solar thermal energy.
5. Siemens – The world’s largest green company is quite weak in solar energy but is growing. They have acquired an Israeli CSP company and are looking to expand into India as well.
Between these ten companies solar energy prices are becoming easier to manage. This makes it easier for residential and commercial owners to buy and use solar energy. Solar energy is coming to the forefront as a strong source of energy.
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