Alternative Home Energy

Photovoltaic Solar Energy - How and Why it Works

Most solar power is derived through the use of photovoltaic energy, often called 'PV' systems. These devices make use of semiconductor materials to convert the light of the sun into usable power in the form of electricity. As the photons emitted by the sun strike the surface of the PV solar cells, electrons are dislodged from within the semiconductor material. As more and more electrons are displaced, the flow of these electrons becomes a direct electrical current (DC). When channeled and directed, this current can be used - with the help of a solar inverter - to power home appliances, water heaters, to replentish solar batteries, and to provide electrical energy to any other source on the power grid.

Photovoltaic energy is highly prized as one of the future's most promising energy sources. Not only are the sun's rays a renewable source of energy, they are completely free and available worldwide. Solar energy is clean, unlimited, and produces no emissions. It offers no air or water pollution, and is completely silent. It has a long track record of being able to provide consistent power for residential or commercial use, and the technology used to produce modern PV systems has gotten better, is more cost-effective, and is more readily available than ever before. In today's world where new energy sources are always being sought out, the future of solar photovoltaic power has never been brighter.

Home Photovoltaic Solar Energy - Two Main Types

One of the early uses of PV solar power was for remote applications. In areas and residences too far to be viably hooked up to the power grid, photovoltaic energy could be used for almost every home electricity need. PV panels could supply home lighting, electrical energy for appliances, televisions, and household fixtures. It could help assist in the pumping of well water, bringing running hot and cold water plumbing to areas where it would normally not be possible. Solar energy produced in these off-grid structures could run telephones and radio transmissions, providing power without the use of gas-run generators or kerosine powered generating equipment.

In the second type, a grid-tied solar energy system, photovoltaic cells harness the sun to generate electricity that goes directly into the local power grid. Although the DC current produced by the PV panels cannot be used in its pure form, simple solar inverters are employed to transform it into usable AC (alternating current) electricity. Whatever the home needs, it uses. Whatever is left over is directed elsewhere, to provide green, environmentally clean energy for other residences in the area. Surplus solar energy returned to the power grid causes the homeowner's electric meter to revolve in the opposite direction, actually making money! This is known as 'net metering', and is one of the most attractive things about grid-tied photovoltaic systems. In this manner, solar energy produced by an array or panel system is never wasted - it's used cleanly by someone else, to the benefit of the person providing it.

Today's photovoltaic panel systems provide homeowners with many different installation options, each with its own specific purpose. Most solar PV systems are roof-mounted; either affixed directly to angled roof surfaces or set up as standing solar arrays on flat rooftops. Installations in North America typically maximize exposure to sunlight by mounting PV panels in a southern-facing direction. Some systems are fixed firmly into their mounts, while others may be adjustable to account for seasonal changes in the sun's path. This allows for the angling of the solar array directly into the sunlight whether the season be winter, spring, summer or fall. The fanciest of all PV systems can even offer automatic sun tracking.

Another factor contributing to the increased popularity of photovoltaic solar energy is completely aesthetic - the panels simply look sleeker, cleaner, and better than ever before. People shied away from solar energy simply based on the horrific look of the equipment involved. Past solar power systems were unsightly and very large in comparison to the small amount of energy they produced. Today's panels are made of exponentially smaller PV cells that produce many times more electricity than older technology. Architects and builders also work to integrate solar cells into the the construction of today's modern designs, placing arrays directly into decorative solar shades, ornamental features, and even through the use of glass-top solar tiles designed to look like a contemporary roofing shingle. Gone are the days of giant bulky silver arrays. In are the days of thin-film PV fabrics and crystal silicon cell products.

Photovoltaic solar energy will succeed on its own merits, but the technology will be hurried along as the shortage of fossil fuels and rising environmental issues drive countries to seek alternative sources of renewable power. Green, clean, and completely inexhaustible, solar technology is destined to see incredible new uses in the very near future.


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