If you follow popular culture, you will undoubtedly have seen numerous articles, blog posts and videos explaining how solar energy works, its various applications and how to make the most of it. Although this type of content is incredibly helpful, you might still have questions about what exactly happens when sunlight interacts with solar cells and why this energy is so valuable. Fortunately, you can find all of the answers you need here in our extensive overview of solar energy. We will cover everything from the basics of solar cell technology and photovoltaic (PV) modules to in-depth information about the latest advances in solar energy harvesting.
Understanding Solar Energy
When you discuss solar energy, you typically have three topics that you need to cover: solar cells, photovoltaic (PV) modules and energy generation. Let’s take a quick look at each one.
First, you will need to understand what solar cells and PV modules are. These are the two types of devices that convert light energy into electrical energy. As you might imagine, there are various materials and technologies that are used in creating these two components. More importantly, only a portion of the total power generated by solar cells and PV modules actually comes from the sunlight themselves – the vast majority of the energy is produced by the devices due to heat. This is why these two components are often referred to as “sunlight-dependent” or “photovoltaic” energy sources – the name “solar” energy might also be used to describe them.
A solar cell has two sides: a negative electrode (n-type) and a positive electrode (p-type). When light interacts with the cell, the photons from the Sun have specific frequencies that are absorbed by the cell’s components, specifically by the semiconductor that is sandwiched in the middle. This light triggers an electrical current that is generated and flows between the two electrodes when sunlight is present. To put it more simply, when light (photons) interacts with the solar cell, it causes an electric field to be formed in the device. This field is subsequently transformed into an electron flow by using an electric force. This electron flow can be utilized to perform work (e.g., turning a turbine or pumping water) or to simply flow through a circuit (e.g., in a battery or an LED light).
PV modules are typically made up of a combination of solar cells and other components that allow for the collection and conversion of sunlight into electrical energy. The various materials and technologies that are used to create PV modules can be found in any electronic device that is produced in large quantities. Since these modules are designed to work with electricity, there is no need for an external power supply to operate them. In addition, it is not necessary to have large panels to generate some energy – small solar roof tiles that are laid on top of each other are more than sufficient.
The Many Benefits of Solar Energy
When trying to decide whether or not to invest in solar energy, you should keep in mind that there are many advantages to this type of power source. Here are just a few of them.
- It is the cleanest source of energy available, as it does not produce greenhouse gases (CO2) or toxic byproducts (NOx).
- The energy output of solar cells and PV modules is easily measurable, as they always generate a certain amount of electricity regardless of the amount of sunlight that is present. This makes it easy to monitor and control.
- The energy that is generated by solar cells and PV modules does not require fossil fuels or nuclear power to generate. As a result, it is considered to be “green” energy – something that is rapidly increasing in popularity as a source of energy.
- Since solar energy does not require human intervention to generate, there is no chance of it being interrupted or depleted. Indeed, the presence of sunlight is always necessary to produce electricity from solar cells and PV modules.
- Due to their design, solar cells and PV modules can generate power even when the sun is not present. This is why they are often referred to as “solar-dependent” or “photovoltaic” energy sources.
- Since solar cells and PV modules do not use any moving parts, they are very reliable and will not break down over time.
- Since solar energy does not require fossil fuels or nuclear power to generate, it is more eco-friendly than other types of energy sources.
Where Can I Plug In My Solar Cells?
Although solar cells and PV modules work just fine plugged in the wall, there are many reasons why you might want to carry them around with you. For starters, it is always nice to have a spare battery charger. In addition, if you have a number of solar cells and PV modules, you can create your own power supply that is independent of the voltage and power supplies that are available in stores. This can be a real advantage, especially if your electricity is provided by different companies (e.g., on solar power systems) who use varying voltage and current standards.
Another reason why you might want to pack your solar cells and PV modules is if you have a sunny outdoor area (such as a roof, a balcony or a countryside) and you want to be able to make the most of it. In this case, you can purchase a solar power system (which usually includes a charge controller) that is linked to a battery bank. When the sun is shining, your battery bank will be charged by the system. This allows you to use electricity to power devices such as kettles, water heaters, pumps and various types of machinery. This type of setup is very flexible, as you can then connect additional devices (such as an air-conditioning unit or a refrigerator) to the system to create your very own mini-factory!
If you decide that solar energy is a viable option, it is critical that you find a reliable and reputable supplier who can provide advice on how to make the most of it. Doing your research online or through contacting the company directly is the key to finding a good supplier – at the end of the day, the price that you will pay for electricity will be based on the level of investment that you make in generating the power. As a result, getting a good deal is all about finding the right balance between supply and demand. If you are looking for a free electricity supply, the best thing you can do is take advantage of any type of government or non-profit organization’s offer – it might just pay off in the end.