When it comes to cutting back on our carbon footprint, more people are starting to consider switching to solar energy. As a result, more and more people are learning about this sustainable, environmental-friendly alternative to traditional power generation.
While it is great that more people are aware of the benefits of solar energy, it can be tough to figure out exactly what you need to know. To help guide you, we have compiled a list of the top 10 things you need to know about solar energy.
1. How Does Solar Energy Work?
People typically think about solar energy when they see something like this:
2. What Kind Of Technologies Are Needed?
Though there are many different types of solar energy, they can all be categorized into three groups:
- Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Each type of solar energy has its pros and cons. At the end of the day, you have to determine which one is the most suitable for your needs. Here are the crucial technologies you need to know about:
Photography is needed to create a photovoltaic system. Solar cells are the electronic components that convert light into electricity. They can be formed in different ways, but most often they are made up of silicon wafers.
Silicon wafers are processed into solar cells at a solar cell production line. Typically, this involves cleaning, etching, and then applying a protective layer.
The final step in the process is packaging the solar cells. This can be done either by building a package around the cells or by using a small cell container. The former is known as a crystalline solar cell, while the latter is known as an amorphous solar cell.
Traditional solar energy systems use very large panels made up of several hundred solar cells to produce enough electricity to meet the average home’s needs. These types of systems are highly efficient, but they are also very expensive to purchase and install.
Thermal solar energy uses a large number of mirrors called heliostats to concentrate sunlight on a receiver, which is an absorber. The heat is then transferred to a fluid (typically molten salt) inside a heat exchanger. This is where the heat is finally used, such as to produce steam to drive a turbine or to produce hot water.
One of the advantages of this type of system is that it uses a smaller number of solar cells than photovoltaic systems. The downside is that heliostat arrays are not very mobile, since they need to be mounted on a cement or metal surface to be effective.
A CSP system uses lenses and mirrors to focus sunlight on a point, which is then directed at a large number of solar cells. These types of systems can produce a lot of electricity compared to traditional systems, as reflected sunlight is focused on a smaller surface area. As a result, fewer solar cells are needed to power the same amount of electricity.
The main advantage of a CSP system is that it doesn’t require as much land area as traditional solar power plants. This is important in terms of meeting today’s growing need for more space. The downside, however, is that CSP systems are more complex and require more maintenance.
3. Where Can I Buy All Of This?
If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where sunlight is abundant, you can purchase all of the necessary equipment (aside from the panels themselves) easily. Even if you live in a cold climate, you can still get the equipment you need for a traditional solar system with a little bit of shopping around.
If, on the other hand, you are looking to purchase a CSP system or a thermal solar system, you will need to do some research first to find a company that offers these types of systems in your area. The last thing you need is to buy equipment from a company whose offices are far away and which does not offer good customer service.
4. The Cost Of Building A Solar Energy System
It is always a good idea to get as much information as you can about the cost of purchasing and installing a solar energy system. Naturally, the price will depend on several factors, such as:
- The size of the system
- The type of equipment used
- The location of where you will put it
- The quality of the equipment
- The labor involved
To give you an idea of what you can expect to pay, consider these numbers:
- A 5 kW system with 50% efficiency costs about $13,000 U.S. to build (no subsidies included).
- The same system with 75% efficiency costs about $16,000 U.S. to build.
- A 10 kW system with 50% efficiency costs about $21,000 U.S. to build (no subsidies included).
- The same system with 75% efficiency costs about $26,000 U.S. to build.
There are, however, government subsidies that can reduce the cost of installing a solar energy system. In many cases, you can get a subsidy from the government (usually through your tax bill) to cover the cost of buying equipment. As a result, the price of a traditional solar energy system can be significantly lower than what it would otherwise cost. Keep this in mind as you shop around for quotes.
5. How Much Does It Cost To Maintain A Solar Energy System?
Though a solar energy system is a long-term (and often costly) investment, it is still reasonable to assume that you will save money in the long run by installing one.
The reason behind this is simple. You are reducing your dependence on fossil fuels, which cost a lot to purchase and operate. As a result, you are cutting back on your utility bills, which are expensive (and can reach 10s of thousands of dollars a month in some cases). This is also reducing your carbon footprint, which is great for the environment.
To give you an idea of how much you will save annually, let’s say that you reduce your utility bills by $10,000 a year. This is equal to the price of a 5 kW system with 75% efficiency (which we mentioned above) over 20 years. At this rate, you will save $640,000. Though this is a large amount of money, it is still cheaper than the initial investment of a traditional power plant, which is equal to the price of a 10 kW system with 50% efficiency over 20 years (which we also mentioned above) – $1,280,000. This clearly shows that investing in a solar energy system is not only a good decision in the long run, it is also a reasonable decision in the short run.
6. What Are The Benefits Of A Solar Energy System?
For many people, the answer to this question is that it will provide them with cheaper electricity. As we mentioned above, this is because you are reducing the amount of money you have to spend on utility bills. In addition, it will also reduce the amount of harmful gases you are pumping into the environment. Though this may not seem like a major benefit, bear in mind that the cost of purchasing and operating a traditional power plant is also high.
Aside from these financial benefits, a solar energy system is also great for the environment. As we mentioned above, this is because more people are utilizing green energy sources, which are better for the planet. In the long term, this means fewer fossil fuels are being burned, which reduces the amount of harmful gases in the air. In the short term, this reduces the strain on our natural resources, which are much needed nowadays.
7. How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Traditional Power Plant?
Though it is important to consider the cost of purchasing and installing a solar energy system (aside from the costs of maintenance), it is also important to consider the cost of replacing a traditional power plant.