What is Solar Power? A guide on solar energy and photovoltaics

By Dynamic Solar PV

Sun lights and Solar PV Panels

Progress towards moving the planet towards green, renewable energy is currently very slow. At present, renewable resources such as solar, wind and hydro power 30% of the world’s electricity supply. The figure is growing, but with the climate change crisis becoming more and more of a global issue, the pressure to move from fossil fuel dependency is greater than ever. 

Many households and businesses have taken it upon themselves to reduce their own carbon footprint and sourced independent power supplies to their properties. Solar power is the most convenient, easy-to-source, easy-to-install and reliable renewable resource for small-scale demand. As such, new developments in recent years have been built with a focus on being green, self-sufficient, smart homes to help usher in a new age of green, affordable living. 

What is solar energy?

Solar energy covers any type of energy that is sourced from the sun. The earth is within the optimum distance to benefit from solar energy, hosting the perfect environment to support life. The Earth’s atmosphere absorbs harmful UV radiation from the sun, leaving a trace amount to come through. Light and heat from the sun reaches the Earth’s atmosphere where it is either harnessed and converted into a different form of energy or reflected back into space. 

Plant-life harnesses solar power to support life. Photosynthesis is a process that converts photons (particles of energy that form light waves) into chemical energy. Solar energy is therefore the starting point in the evolution of fossil fuels as coal and oil all originate from decomposed organic life that began with photosynthesising the light from the sun billions of years ago. 

Directly harnessing the power of the sun reduces the carbon-output of using fossil fuels. Solar panels directly convert the energy in radiant light into either heat energy or electricity. As long as they are absorbing light, they can convert energy into a form to be used on a mass-scale, as is the case in solar power farms, or on a small scale with Solar PV panels. Solar power is also responsible for powering satellites in orbit around the planet, ensuring global connectivity. Altogether, life exists and continues to exist because of the sun. And now we can use the same energy to power our homes and slow down the impact of climate change.

How does solar thermal energy work?

Harnessing solar energy to convert into heat is a more indirect method for producing electricity but is more effective on a large scale. Concentrated Solar Power uses reflective arrays to concentrate light on a large area to a smaller, focused point. What occurs is what happens to sunlight through a magnifying glass, only on a larger scale, and creates a point of intense heat. 

This heat is used to power industrial sized turbines. Just as fossil fuels are used in a furnace to generate kinetic energy, the concentrated heat from the sun produces enough heat to power a turbine. Only there are no greenhouse gases produced as a result. 

The same process of converting light into heat can be used on a smaller scale to store hot water. Solar panels of this type can be used as an alternative to a gas or mains-powered electric boiler. 

How does solar PV electricity work?

How Solar Energy Works

Photovoltaics, or PV, generates electricity directly. Solar PV Panels consist of individual solar cells that act like the cells within a battery. The photons from sunlight are absorbed into a layer of negatively charged silicon ions, displacing the electrons and transferring them to a layer of positively charged ions at the other end of the cell. This transfer of electrons causes a flow of electricity. Each solar cell continuously converts energy into electricity as long as there is a source of light being absorbed. 

Solar PV Panels can easily power a household, however how much energy consumption the house demands has to be factored as a solar panel can only produce so many watts per hour during its peak performance. Making full use of the space you have will give you more flexibility with how you use the electricity that your solar panels produce. Excess electricity can be stored for use during the night and can also be sold to the local energy supplier.

Advantages

  • Renewable energy source
  • No Carbon Output
  • Free electricity if sourced from private solar panels
  • Private electricity can be sold back to the grid

Disadvantages

  • No energy production at night
  • Weather and seasonal dependent
  • Solar panels have an initial expensive
  • Installation has to be carried out by a professional
  • Solar Panels need to be approved by Planning Permission

How does solar energy work at night?

Rather than sending excess electricity back to the grid, properties with solar PV panels can use storage batteries. These batteries charge up during the day and can be used when the panels stop producing electricity when the sun goes down. 

Otherwise, the property will have to rely on electricity from an energy supplier during the night hours. For a home or business to be completely self-sufficient, batteries are essential, especially when there is likely to be a higher energy usage consumption during the evenings after work. 

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Making the move to solar power

Solar Energy

With electricity bills on the continued rise, changing to a self-sufficient power system is looking more and more attractive for households. Solar power is the best choice – kinder on the environment as well as kinder on your future outgoings. 

At Dynamic Solar, we have been helping hundreds of homes and businesses make the change over to solar power. We offer an end-to-end service, covering every step of the process for your peace of mind. It all starts with getting in touch for a free quote. 

Before you do get started, we recommend that you look into your annual energy consumption as that will help us work out how many solar PV panels your home or business will need to meet the demand. We also recommend that you look into your local council’s rules and regulations regarding having solar panels installed. If you need any advice or wish to find out more, our team are available to talk about our renewable energy solutions. 

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