Solar Power – The Way Forward
For a long time Solar Power was only identified as the conversion of sun light to to electricity. While this is not inaccurate most of us do not know that the energy harvested must first be converted to electrical energy to be able to produce generally functional electricity. The conversion is made possible through the photovoltaic or PV, a method that uses semiconductors to convert the sun’s radiation to electrical energy.
Components of a Simple Solar Power System
Solar or photovoltaic cells
The assembly of semiconductors and electronics or solar cells is enclosed in a photovoltaic module, more commonly known as a solar panel. Several solar panels are called solar panel array.
A solar panel collects and generates energy from the sun’s radiation. PV panels convert this energy to direct current electricity, a current that is produced by batteries. Although connecting a DC load directly to the solar panel is possible, batteries play an important role to a properly working photovoltaic system.
A regulator is optional yet a vital equipment in a photovoltaic system. During the cyclic process, the battery is likely to become overcharged or over-discharge, a situation that shortens the batteries’ lifespan. A regulator prevents such situations from happening by regulating the batteries’ condition. It maintains a stage of charge where it monitors when the battery will be overly charge or discharge. In general, a regulator keeps the batteries in the most appropriate working conditions.
A converter allows the DC electricity stored into the batteries to be converted to AC or alternating current electricity, the type of energy that is used by the mains power supply. The DC/AC or direct/alternating converter is also called an inverter and is used to match the required current and voltage by the load. It is typical to experience some energy loss during electricity conversion.
Any appliances that consumes electricity is considered a load. When choosing a load for the solar power system, it is necessary to start with a low power component before installing additional solar panels to avoid wasting of resources. PV systems are ideal for illumination as lights only consume several watts compared to bigger appliances like television, components, or computers. There are also lightings that operates on direct current electricity, allowing the use of solar power system in a low budget scale.
Solar panels, battery, regulator, converter, and load make up the solar panel system. When all of these components are installed properly, a solar power system can sustain itself for years.
Benefits of Solar Power
For most residential users, power grid is the most convenient source of electricity. It seems like a huge power shortage or outage is still in the distant future. However, the increasing worry about the exhaustion of fossil fuels is drawing authorities all over the world to exploit renewable energy sources. As solar energy is the most commercialized among other renewable energy, it is necessary to know how you, as a residential end-user, can benefit from solar power.
Solar power is a proven commercial energy source. Among other renewable resources such as wind, hydro, biomass, biofuel, and geothermal power, solar power the only clean energy that is able to generate a large market scale including residential users. Due to the advancement in solar energy technology and the consistent improvement of financing approaches, solar energy project implementation is steadily reducing.
China’s emergence as one of the biggest manufacturer of solar panels largely affects the cost of end-user materials. The country also produces wind turbines although exports are limited unlike the global production and export of PV panels.
Infinite energy source
Depletion of fossil fuels is an unvarying threat to energy security. Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources and its exhaustion is inevitable, which means power supply shortages all over the world. On the other hand, renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal power are able to generate electricity without depleting natural resources. These natural energies are infinite sources of energy. If installed and utilized properly and strategically, renewable energy can supply the whole world with clean electricity.
Solar energy, like all green energy, produces relatively small amounts of greenhouse gases or GHG, one of the major factors to the thinning of the ozone layer. It reduces the carbon footprint in all sectors. The utilization of alternative energy also promotes the production of low carbon technology products such as LED-powered lights, low-carbon appliances, and hybrid cars. More energy efficient storage and solar panels are being developed to improve the viability of alternative energy.
Modification of electricity usage
Solar power systems are not only able to generate and supply power to residential users, it also allows end-users to modify their electricity usage. This is made possible by a two-way smart grid system between the main power supplier and the consumer. When your solar power system generates excess energy, the power meter turns backwards. A synchronous inverter is necessary, as it will be the one to match the incoming main supply. When such favourable conditions occur, your electricity supplier pays you back for the excess energy generated by the solar power system. Alternative energy is by nature unpredictable as the amount of generated energy greatly depends on weather conditions.
Incessant government support
The fact that the recession hardly had an impact to alternative sources demands proves that renewable energy is a stable and continuously strengthening industry. The unrelenting government support, including incentive packages from various countries, helped boost the industry especially solar, wind, and biofuel generation. Energy smart technologies are gaining increased support from capital and private equity investors, giving way to digital and power saving applications in the market.
Governments all over the world are offering stimulus packages of tax credits and incentives to residential, commercial, and industrial users. Aside from tax deductions for individuals and companies that install solar power systems, the federal government also offers cash back reward programs, property tax exemptions, sales tax exemptions, and electric company incentives. Even investors partner with solar companies to sponsor recycling programs and allow conscious consumers to dispose old products properly.
Low maintenance and operating cost
The ideal set-up requires it to have optimum sunlight exposure during the day, and if this is achieved, then expect consistent energy generation on ideal weather conditions. However, proper operating and maintenance must be done periodically to ensure optimum collection of sunlight.
PV panels, if installed properly and strategically, are virtually maintenance free. Basic maintenance of solar panels includes keeping the solar panel array clean and free of debris. Washing the PV panels is also recommended especially if you live in a particularly dusty region. Use non-abrasive cleaners and wash cloth to avoid scratching the panels. A garden hose can be use to rinse the panels.
Aside from its self-sufficiency, solar panels have an average of 20 or more years of operational life. With recent developments of materials used in building PV panels, the life expectancy and viability of solar panels is expected to improve in the coming years. During these years, approximately $2,000 is needed as maintenance and operating cost of PV panels.
Eliminate the cost and difficulties of transporting conventional fuel
The federal government allots billions of dollars to transport fuel and other natural gas to the country for electricity generation. Solar power systems reduce such cost, as photovoltaic panels do not require fuel or natural gas to convert sunlight to electricity. Building of large solar power plants also allows local generation of environmentally friendly electricity where it can be delivered to residential, commercial, and industrial users.
Indoor solar lighting is possible via a system that collects and distributes sunlight for indoor illumination. Outdoor solar lighting is composed of simple solar power system where the lights are continuously being charged through the day and discharge at night by illuminating walkways. Lighting takes up a lot of energy and is consequently quite expensive wherein Solar Lights has really become a very viable and affordable green option. Solar lights have a huge range and include outdoor solar flood lights, dock lights, brinkmannsolar lights and even solar powered night lights. Today in fact Solar Lights are the rage with hundreds of products and different varieties being marketed. Solar lighting is now employed inside the home and even outside it including the roof and the garden! Even commercial premises are today being fitted with solar a lighting system which is paying rich dividends not only in saving cost but also helping reduce the carbon footprint which is greatly enhanced by conventional power usage.