Solar Power How It Works

Solar power how it works. That's a pretty complex question, when you think about it. Here are some simple ways to understand the process!

The sun produces a huge amount of energy each day which is more than enough for all our energy needs! All we need to do is figure out ways to harness that energy.

The sun's energy comes to us as heat, also known as solar thermal energy, or it can be converted into electricity through the use of solar panels.

Solar power can be indirect or direct, and either passive or active. For our own energy uses, most often, all solar energy is converted into the power we need by using solar panels. Solar panels can be of two different types, either solar thermal or photovoltaic.

Solar Thermal Power

With solar thermal power, energy is taken directly from the sun to generate heat. The solar panels can collect heat from the sun and then transfer it to heat water or space in buildings.

That means you can use this type of solar paneling to heat water or your home. Most often, these types of panels are used so that the sun's heat is absorbed throughout the day and then water is circulated throughout the home into what are called solar thermal collectors.

Indirectly, this can also be done not with water but with a non-toxic antifreeze fluid. In this case, the sun warms the liquid and the heat from the sun is transferred to water that's held in the tank. This is passive solar thermal heating for buildings, and is relatively straightforward.

Photovoltaic Solar Power

The second type of solar power how it works, is photovoltaic. The photovoltaic process converts the sun's power into electricity, instead of using it rather straightforwardly as heat, as the previous method does.

With the photovoltaic process, photovoltaic cells made of silicon or other materials will absorb the sun's light. These types of panels don't absorb the sun's warmth, as with the thermal method.

What's interesting is that if you decide to install solar panels to absorb and utilize the sun's energy, either its heat or its light, or both, you can install both thermal and photovoltaic panels.

That way you can get both types of energy at once, sfor example through panels that are installed on your roof. In other words, you don't have to choose to either heat your home's interior and your water supply OR get your electrical power needs met with the Sun's energy. You can do both.

Converting the Sun's Energy Into Electricity

There is some conversion that goes on most especially with solar power how works, when it comes to electrical use.

Because the electricity produced by the solar panels is in the form of direct current, or DC, it's not usable for most common household purposes, because household electricity runs on alternating current, or AC.

You will lose a small amount of power captured by the solar cells when you do this conversion from DC to AC, but it is small. Keep in mind that you are still doing a lot to contribute to "green" energy, both for environmental advantages and for your own energy savings, too.

By the way, it's possible and even preferable to stay "on the grid" should you choose to go with solar power. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Off Grid and On Grid Solar Energy

We often hear of solar energy being used in remote locations where there are no electrical or power sources available. These kinds of systems are called "off grid", and they may be less reliable than "on grid" or "grid tied solar systems.

One of the most significant benefits for staying connected to your local power sources is if for some reason you should have times when you use more power than your own solar panels can provide.

In this case, staying on the grid can help ensure that you'll have continual access to power, even during cloudy days, so that you won't have your own personal "blackouts" or "brownouts."

Secondly, if you produce more energy than you can use or that your batteries can hold, that excess power can be given back to the grid, so that your power company may actually pay YOU for providing some of its own energy needs! How great is that? :-)

Of course, the most important reason for "going green" in this way is to positively impact the environment, but it doesn't hurt at all as well that you'll also positively impact your own finances!

Whether or not you do sell energy back to your own power company, you are certainly going to come out ahead in the long run when it comes to using solar energy.

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