Solar energy is a hot topic and it is going to be hot for many years to come.
Just in the first quarter of 2021 the US market installed over 5 GW of solar power which is a 46% increase compared to Q1 2020, according to SEIA.
Renewable energy is our weapon against climate change and now is a great time for a switch to solar.
For those who are still unsure about what this energy actually is and how solar panels work, here’s our quick look into the basics of photovoltaics.
How Solar Panels Generate Electricity
When talking about solar energy, we ought to thank Edmond Becquerel for discovering the photovoltaic effect back in 1839 and then Russell Owl who found out that illumination of silicon crystals produces a current in the crystal in 1940.
Basically, when sunlight hits cells of a solar panel that are made of silicon, it creates an electric field, and the current starts to flow across the panel.
Solar panel by itself produces direct current (DC) which can’t be used by most of our household appliances as it is.
This is why a solar system always has an inverter that turns direct current to alternating.
How Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather
Some try to argue that a single cloud in the sky can kill your whole solar production. Know that it’s just not true.
Panels perceive more than just solar radiation that is visible to an eye. The “invisible” radiation of different wavelengths is actually capable of penetrating the clouds and successfully lands on solar cells in your system.
So while the cloud weather does decrease the output of your array, it’s nowhere near critical levels.
Overall, you can expect the production to drop by 25-40% on a dark day, depending on the intensity of irradiance and properties of your panels.
Panels are constantly being improved and work in cloudy weather better each year.
This makes solar panels a good choice even in areas with bad weather and a small number of sunny days per year – just make sure to pick up panels with good power output in low-light conditions.
How Solar Panels Work at Night
While solar panels work diligently from dawn till dusk, they rest at night. There is no sunlight thus no electricity is produced.
One could make an argument about the moonlight: our natural satellite reflects the sunlight and indeed the panels can make use of it.
However, the night levels of irradiance are nowhere near daylight ones. Maybe the moon will be able to power a lamp on your nightstand but that’s about it.
So how do you use your appliances once the sun is down? In a grid-tie system night hours is the time when you rely on the grid.
Keep in mind that at night commercial electricity is often cheaper anyway.
With an off-grid or hybrid system at night, you rely on a battery bank that gets charged during the day.
What Are Some of the Advantages of Solar Power
Let’s finish this article by listing a number of immediate advantages that solar panels possess:
- Green, renewable energy is a key to reduce the carbon footprint and reverse the process of global warming. To fight against climate change is a responsibility of every human and solar energy is the solution to our electricity needs. Going solar for businesses is a chance to reinforce the positive image of their enterprise and show their concern about the future of the planet.
- Solar panels are silent and produce no smell, unlike gas generators. Moreover they don’t need fuel which tends to run out at the most critical moment and can be hard to come by in emergency situations.
- Panels last for 25 years minimum and are extremely durable. They withstand natural disasters well and protect your roof from harsh winds and hail. Not to mention that they also look cool on the roof. For outdoor activities you can also bring your handy portable solar panel to keep all your gear charged.
- Solar installations eventually pay for themselves. Panels greatly reduce your bills – in some states you save over $100 each month with solar. In the USA the payback time is 7-8 years on average. So while you might not care about green energy, you can still look at solar as a long-term investment. There are also lots of incentives that make the switch to solar easier and cheaper. For more on that we suggest that you visit our partners A1 Solar Store. They have a lot of helpful articles about solar as well as about US programs that promote the switch to solar energy.
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