Solar energy research drives innovation that drives efforts to seek ever more efficient means to utilize the power of the sun to support both homes and businesses across the globe.  If you are considering a solar energy installation on your home or business, you need to know what new advances are being made and what the questions are that solar energy research can help to answer.

Let’s start with NREL.  You may have never heard of NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, but this important organization  has a rich history of research devoted to innovation in renewable energy and energy efficiency that spans several decades.  In 2017, NREL celebrated 40 years of advanced energy research, including solar energy research.

NREL was first designated a national laboratory by President George Bush on September 16, 1991. But the birth of the organization began more than two decades before with the creation of NREL’s predecessor, the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI).  Currently, NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. 

This organization, which is operated for the US Department of Energy by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC ,has done much to advance the cause of sustainable energy.  The organization’s website lists some of the many accomplishments celebrated over NREL’s four decades.  NREL’s website also includes highlights of its various research efforts, including its solar energy research dedicated to providing ever more efficient means to use clean, efficient solar energy as one answer to the planet’s energy needs.   

One study, published in August 2014, focuses on photovoltaic panels.  The NREL Study of Fielded PV Systems Demonstrates PV ReliabilityPDF concludes that photovoltaic module quality has remained high even as module prices have declined.  Why is this important to me, you might ask?  Solar energy research such as this is important to those considering installing a solar system because photovoltaics are the “building blocks” of utilizing the sun’s energy to produce clean and cost effective energy.  As a potential solar energy user, you need to know that as prices have come down, quality has improved.

You also need to know about photovoltaics.  Let’s start with a few basics:

 What are photovoltaics?

Wikipedia defines photovoltaics as the best-known method of generating electric power using solar cells to convert light energy from the sun into a flow of electrons. The photovoltaic effect refers to photons of light exciting electrons into a higher state of energy, allowing them to act as charge carriers for an electric current.

This is important because photovoltaic panels are the primary means used by residences and corporations seeking to use solar energy to power their homes and businesses.  A solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity.

Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. Each photovoltaic cell is basically a sandwich made up of two slices of semi-conducting material, usually silicon — the same stuff used in microelectronics. A couple of other components of the cell turn these liberated electrons into usable power. Metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell collect the electrons and transfer them to wires. At that point, the electrons can flow like any other source of electricity. These photovoltaic cells work in concert to create a photovoltaic system to power your home or business, systems that allow us to convert sunlight directly to electricity using solar cells.

The NREL website indicates that their solar energy research and development focuses on theory and modeling, materials deposition, device design, measurements and characterization, and reliability testing and engineering.  In layman’s language, they are interested in designing new systems and developing new materials that increases the efficiency of solar power generation and distribution.  Their work with photovoltaics concentrates on finding new ways to more effectively convert sunlight into energy.  Another area of solar energy research includes more efficient ways of  storing solar energy so that energy can be tapped between sunset and sunrise or during cloudy weather to provide renewable electricity on demand.

Solar energy research continues to produce more efficient systems at lower costs with ever more reliable materials.  If you are interested in learning more about solar energy and whether a photovoltaic system is right for your home or business, you need the help of a local expert like Venture Home Solar. 

Our state and local policy makers in New York are working hard to advance solar energy, just like NREL.  Venture Home Solar stands ready to help you explore your solar options and to tap into the latest solar energy research. Headquartered in Brooklyn, we only serve NYC and the surrounding areas.  Find out how you can be part of the global initiative to bring clean energy to all of the world’s inhabitants. Call us at 800-203-4158 to learn more.