For any home or business owner considering “going solar,” there are some solar energy fundamentals that can help guide your decisions about whether to invest in this alternative form of energy. You probably already know that solar energy is an abundant source of essentially free power that has amazing potential to solve our planet’s energy needs with minimal impact on the environment. But you might not be aware that according to the US Department of Energy, just 18 days of sunshine on Earth contains the same amount of energy as is stored in all of the planet’s reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas. You may already be thinking of the sun as a giant generator, but you might not be aware of how cost effective it is to put a simple system is in place to harness the solar resource and convert it into useful energy. These solar energy fundamentals make solar energy attractive from both an economic as well as an environmental point of view.
Solar Energy Fundamentals: The Expanding Use of Solar Power as an Energy Source
This renewable energy source, first used commercially over a century ago, is growing rapidly as people and nations look for sources of energy that are sustainable and environmentally sound. More and more solar panels are evident as you drive by homes, parking structures, schools and businesses – solar panels are now visible everywhere as an ever increasing number of individuals and companies begin to tap into this ready resource. 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.
Data collected by the US Department of Energy indicate that solar power is more affordable, accessible and prevalent in the US than ever before. Since 2008, solar installations in the US have grown seventeen-fold from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) to an estimated 30 GW today, enough to power the equivalent of 5.7 million average American homes. Since 2010, the average cost of solar PV panels has dropped more than 60% and the cost of a solar electric system has dropped by about 50%. So how do you get started?
Solar Energy Fundamentals: How Does Solar Energy Work?
Basically, solar energy is produced by capturing radiant light and heat from the sun and then converting it into energy that can be used 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 on highways where the sun’s energy is captured during the day to enable highway signs to shine 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 usable direct current (DC) electricity. An inverter connected by wires to the panels turns those direct currents (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.
Depending on how much power your system generates – which is impacted by both its size and your location – you may still elect 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. The utility company engages in what is called “net metering,” a process that involves measure how much energy you generate and how much you use. The company then gives you a credit for the electricity you generate and you then pay only for the power you need beyond that amount.
You can learn more about net metering and other solar energy fundamentals work by contacting a New York solar expert like Venture Solar today. Venture Home Solar stands ready to help you explore your solar options and to learn more about the solar energy fundamentals that can help make your system even more affordable. Headquartered in Brooklyn, we only serve NYC and the surrounding areas. Find out how you can be part of the NY initiative to bring clean energy to all New Yorkers. Call us at 800-203-4158 to learn more.