The Basic Fundamentals of Solar Energy

To understand the basic fundamentals of solar energy, one should start with the obvious:  Solar energy relies on an abundant source of essentially free power that meets our planet’s energy needs with minimal impact on the environment. According to the US Department of Energy’s website, “Increased solar energy deployment offers myriad benefits for the United States. As the cleanest domestic energy source available, solar supports broader national priorities, including national security, economic growth, climate change mitigation, and job creation. Solar’s abundance and potential throughout the United States is staggering: PV panels on just 0.6% of the nation’s total land area could supply enough electricity to power the entire United States.”   Once a system is in place at your home or business, you can harness this free solar resource and convert it into useful energy.  This makes solar energy attractive from both an economic as well as an environmental point of view.

The Growth of Solar Power

The basic fundamentals of solar energy also include the fact that the costs of installation keep coming down as solar technology continues to advance.  This renewable energy source is growing rapidly as people and nations look for sources of energy that are sustainable and environmentally sound, but growth in the industry is also being fueled by the fact that installing a solar system is also a sound business practice.  That’s why more and more solar panels are evident as you drive by homes, parking structures, schools and businesses – solar panels are now visible everywhere.  In fact, growth in the solar power industry has been so rapid that solar power is expected to become the world’s biggest source of electricity by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

How Does Solar Energy Work?

Another one of the basic fundamentals of solar energy is understanding the simplicity of how the process works. Basically, solar energy is produced by capturing radiant light and heat from the sun and then converting it into energy to power homes, businesses, tools and machinery. Electricity is generated during peak periods — hot afternoons — when the demand is highest and air conditioners are going full blast. But solar energy can be stored for later use such as during winter months or at night.

There are different kinds of systems that can be designed to collect and store solar energy but the most common installation is known as an active solar power system. An active system uses a mechanism, such as the solar panels one sees on a roof, to capture sunlight and generate power. Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells that capture sunlight particles called photons. Using a semiconducting material such as silicon, the PV cells then convert the photons into useable direct current (DC) electricity. An inverter connected by wires to the panels turns that direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) electricity and sends it to the breaker box panel in your home or business to power your lights, computers and other appliances.  The basic fundamentals of solar energy systems are simple.

Depending on how much power your system generates – which is impacted by both its size and your location – you may still need to be tied into your local utility company’s power grid. That way, you can access any additional power you still might need or you can sell any excess energy you generate into the grid for others to use. This concept is referred to as “net metering” –  another one of the fundamentals of solar energy.

Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. Many states have passed net metering laws. In other states, utilities may offer net metering programs voluntarily or as a result of regulatory decisions. Differences between states’ legislation and utility company policies around the country impact an individual home or business owner’s ultimate electricity costs.

Net metering is simply a billing mechanism that credits you as a solar energy system owner for the electricity you add to the grid that you generate but do not use.  Say, during daylight hours, for example.  You might work outside your home and use little power during the day while your system is converting sunlight into electricity.  If your home or business is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against the electricity you consume at night or any other time that your use exceeds what you have generated.  Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use.  During the day, most solar customers produce more electricity than they consume; net metering allows them to export that power to the grid to reduce their future electric bills. According to SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), California public agencies and schools will save $2.5 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years using net metering.

That’s a huge savings.  If you would like to know how much money you can save by going solar, you need the help of Venture Home Solar, a New York company dedicated to helping our customers get the best advice and the best price.  Call us today at  800-203-4158 to find out more about investing in solar energy!  We are the local experts who know the “ins and outs” of our state policies here in New York.  We are here to help you find out how to save money on your utility bills while helping the environment.  One of the basic fundamentals of solar energy here in New York is calling Venture Home Solar or visiting our website today!