Introduction to Solar Energy

By Chris Bradshaw on June 8th, 2011

Even if you don’t care about the environment you will probably be interested in the idea of solar energy. Being able to get energy from the sun for free is what many people dream of.

Solar power is one of the most exciting and cleanest forms of energy currently available, it can be used in a number of different ways to provide the power that you so desperately need.

There are two main different types of using solar power, either generating electricity with the use of photovoltaic panels, or generating heat by pumping water up to the solar panel for use in your central heating system.

Solar Photovoltaic Panels

Photovoltaic panels work by converting the energy which is in the sunlight into electricity which we can use. A PV tile is created by placing a slice of silicon under a very thin piece of glass, many of these are used together to generate higher amounts of electricity.

Using these PV cells generates DC (Direct Current) which is the same as you would get from a battery. Mains electricity is AC (Alternating current) and so you need to use an inverter to convert the DC electricity into AC. Modern Inverters are about 95% efficient, which is much better than in the past, nevertheless this means that some of the energy will be lost. Inverters will also require replacement after 10-15 years to ensure optimum output.

PV Cells are so popular because they are virtually maintenance free, they do not contain any moving parts which means all you need to do is clean them once in a while.

Solar Water Heating

Another way of using the suns energy is to use it to produce hot water, this is a much simpler and easier to understand idea. The majority of these systems will be mounted on the roofs of houses, the water is normally pumped up there by using an electric pump. A solar water heater, also known as solar thermal, will save you a considerable amount of money and is also fairly good for the environment.

Using Solar Power to Generate Electricity in Your Home

What most people want to do is create electricity rather than simply heating water, and so you might be interested in how you can use solar power to provide electricity to your home.

The drawbacks of using a solar powered system is that it only generates electricity during daylight hours.

There is another option that you might want to consider, and that would be selling the power you generate back to the national grid via the feed-in tariff. This means that if you generate more electricity than you are currently using the electricity can be sold back to the grid.

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