For years, the conventional wisdom was that solar power could not produce electricity on a large scale, because of the low efficiency of the devices used to convert sunlight into energy. But times have changed, and so have we as a society. Today, there are many different types of solar-powered devices, including solar panels that can generate enough electricity to power small homes, while also providing a continuous power supply for charging electronics. So how much energy does a solar panel generate? Consider this next.
The Science Behind Solar Energy
To put things in perspective, it is important to understand the fundamentals behind solar energy. Simply put, sunlight is converted into energy through the use of photovoltaic cells, which are often made out of silicon. When silicon is subjected to light, it becomes electrically charged. This ability to convert light into electricity is called the photovoltaic effect, and it was first discovered in the 1800s.
It is also very important to note that the energy produced by a solar panel is not perfect. Because of solar panels’ low efficiency rating, which can range anywhere from 15 to 25%, the power generated by a single panel depends on where you place it and how large it is. For example, if you want to generate 10 kilowatts of electricity, you will need at least 15 square meters of photovoltaic material, which is composed of 15 solar cells. But since you are aiming to build a small and self-sufficient home power system, you will want to use as little material as possible, and so you will need to find the best compromise between efficiency and output.
Types Of Solar Panels
While there are many different types of solar panels, you can roughly classify them into two categories: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline solar panels are those that are made of a single silicon crystal. These are the most efficient solar panels; the greater the efficiency, the greater the output. They also enable the generation of higher voltages, which increase the energy extracted from the sunlight. But because they are so efficient, they are also quite expensive. Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of multiple silicon crystals that are welded together.
Between the two, monocrystalline solar panels are better suited for generating higher quantities of electricity. However, if you are looking to build a small and self-sufficient home power system, then you will want to go with a polycrystalline solar panel, because they are less expensive and smaller than their monocrystalline counterparts. But remember, efficiency drops significantly when multiple crystals are used, so you will need to install more of them to generate the same amount of power as with a single crystal.
Another important consideration when choosing a solar panel is how much energy it can store. The amount of energy a solar panel stores is dependent on the size and type of battery used, as well as how many times the panel is charged and discharged. Batteries come in many different sizes and capacities, so you will need to determine how much power you need and how frequent you will need to charge your devices. For example, if you need a daily power supply that can deliver 1000 watt-hours, then you will need a 6-volt battery with a 1000 Watt-hour rating. This way, you can be sure that you will have enough electricity whenever you need it. And if you have more frequent charging requirements (such as for a phone or a tablet), then you will need to go for a larger battery. Finally, the more you charge and discharge a solar panel, the faster it will lose its charge and become inefficient (this is largely due to the fact that silicon is not as efficient when it comes to converting energy when it is at its weakest – this is why it is considered a “weak” material when it comes to energy production). Even if you only intend to use your solar panel for lighting purposes and appliances, a single charge should be enough for most households. The above mentioned 6-volt battery will provide a continuous power supply for an average household for more than 24 hours.
Output & Voltage
When choosing a solar panel, you will also want to consider its output and voltage. The output of a solar panel is easily measurable – it is the amount of electricity (in watts) that the device generates. The voltage of a solar panel refers to the amount of electrical charge it can withstand before breaking down. While the voltage of a solar panel does not really matter all that much (generally acceptible values are between 4.2 and 5.5 volts), the efficiency of the device increases with an increasing voltage. If you are not familiar, the efficiency of a device is measured by multiplying the volts x amps rating of the device – in other words, the amount of electricity a source generates divided by the amount of electricity that is input into the source (in this case, the sun).
Since higher voltages can be sustained for longer durations, they enable the generation of more power – as previously stated by the dependency of watt-hours on volts x amps. And if you live somewhere with very high electricity costs – perhaps you are paying more than $0.10 per kilowatt-hour – then it is important to look for solar panels with a high voltage rating. This will enable you to generate more power and save you money over the long term. But keep in mind that the efficiency of a solar panel decreases with an increasing voltage rating, so you will need to place more and larger solar panels in order to capture the same amount of sunlight as with a low voltage solar cell. For example, a 12-volt solar panel can only produce 60% of the output of a 6-volt solar panel.
In conclusion, solar panels are quite versatile when it comes to generating electricity. Due to advances in technology and changes in societal values, more and more people are realizing the advantages of going green and producing their own energy. As a result, more and more individuals and companies are joining this effort and helping to make the world a better place, one step at a time.