Solar panels are beginning to show up all over the place; some are on top of houses while others are in empty fields. So, why are they becoming so popular? The concept of solar energy has been around since the 1950s but only began to take off in the late 2000s. Part of the reason for this is the increasing demand for solar panels and a decrease in price for the average person. Now that the price has come down and people are beginning to see a need for a renewable energy source, solar panels are appearing everywhere. But how do they work, and why are solar panels so much better than buying from an energy company?
Why are solar panels so popular?
As the name implies, solar panels gather energy from the sun. The panels are placed in an area that receives direct sunlight for a large portion of the day and is often placed at an angle that allows for the maximum amount of sunlight. Solar panels can work in one of two ways: photovoltaics, which is more common or concentrating solar-thermal power.
An introduction to photovoltaic panels
A solar panel that uses photovoltaic (PV) cells will absorb sunlight into the PV cells. the energy created by the cells will create an electrical charge and begin the flow of electricity. The cells are small and can only produce around 1 or 2 watts of power. Because of the small size, the cells are connected together in chains called modules. The larger units help increase the output of the cells. A complete photovoltaic system consists of arrays being connected to the electrical power grid. An array is a chain of modules connected together. To protect the cells from the elements, the cells are placed behind glass and plastic and this allows for the panels to last for several years.
An introduction to concentrating solar-thermal power panels
Concentrating solar-thermal power panels use mirrors that reflect concentrated sunlight onto a receiver. The concentrated sunlight then heats fluid inside the receiver to spin a turbine to generate electricity, hence the thermal energy. This form of solar panel technology is often used for commercial and utility-based projects.
Is it worth the money?
Solar panel installation can cost anywhere from $5,000 USD to $40,000 USD. Panels also cost between $0.06 USD to $0.08 USD per kWh. Additional warranties can increase the price and cost varies depending on the location. Ultimately, solar energy is more environmentally friendly than energy companies and is a great option for someone who wants to fuel their home with very little strain on the environment. They have a higher starting cost but seem to be less expensive overall and are better in the long run. It’s ultimately up to you to decide, you might disagree. Most commonly, however, there is a significant ROI with a potential for passive recurring revenue.
Photo credit: The feature image is symbolic and has been done by Saravut Vanset.