Remember the marvel you felt the first time you played with magnets or watched somebody use static electricity to cling a balloon to their shirt? Or perhaps your “light bulb” moment was when you made electricity from a potato in elementary school. Electricity is an unseen yet undeniable force; one that can delight you as much now as it did then. Wonderment aside, solar technology can get your attention in a very real way – with financial rewards.
What Is Solar Technology?
A solar energy array is a standalone electricity generating system. It’s built as a major component for a self-sufficient building or it can be retrofitted onto an existing structure. Solar energy panels, also called photovoltaic cells, begin generating a power current as soon as all of the panels are connected in a complete circuit.
How PV Panels Work
Solar energy production relies on the discovery of photoelectric substances, materials that generate a current from the sun’s rays. The surface of solar panels is dark to capture the sunlight within. The charge bounces from the receptive layer to the bottom layer, creating an electrical charge. This transfer of energy works similar to two magnets attracting each other.
The earliest solar-powered electrical devices were inefficient and therefore, used for demonstrative purposes. By the 1960’s, space exploration created demand for more research into photovoltaics for powering shuttles. Finally, by the end of the last century, the technology was affordable enough for widespread implementation. Thanks to the inevitable cost leveling, along with federal tax incentives and other local incentives offered today, photovoltaic technology is feasible for widespread applications of solar PV systems.
Predict Your Solar Energy Production And Cost
Studies that track solar production based on an assortment of variables are used to help users estimate how much electricity their new solar array will produce in a year. Solar potential maps are freely available and easy to use. You can quickly determine monthly energy costs by comparing your predicted output against your past electricity bills. Use your expected savings coupled with incentives to calculate overall return on investment.
At the present, most new solar energy systems are hooked up to the main utility grid. During the nighttime when your solar panels may not produce enough to power your appliances, it can be drawn from the utility grid. If necessary, solar power can be used at the same time as the utility grid. In any case, you will continue to have electricty throughout the day and nighttime. New bi-directional power meters measure power that has been used and created, but the public utility only bills for any deficit leftover at the end of the billing cycle; hence the term net metering.
If someday the technology allows for 24-hour self-sufficiency, regulations will likely still encourage users to be on the grid. Excess power can be shared, and it’s good to have access to power during repairs or replacement of your system. Plus, the US is using figures from meters nationwide to chart our progress towards energy independence.
Set It And Forget It
Once installed, your panels will generate free electricity for 30 years or more without costly maintenance. You won’t be encumbered with unexpected surprises. Solar panels come with the following added perks:
- Low probability of breaking – solar arrays have no moving parts!
- No burdensome maintenance –rain is sufficient to clean the dust from most installations. Owners with nearby sap trees may need to trim away branches or have annual cleanings.
- Roof repairs are no problem – panels easily detach from racking in case of a roof repair. In fact, the panels will shield most of your roof from exposure to the degradation caused by UV rays!
There you have it, solar technology explained! If you were a “science kid” in school, you’ll agree it’s fun to revisit the fundamentals of modern technologies; almost as fun as opening a $0.00 light bill or cashing in on your solar renewable energy credit income!