The 2003 the Northeast blackout affected 45 million people in eight US states. Those using alternative sources of energy such as solar panels were able to benefit from their independence from the grid. No food going bad in refrigerators, no sitting in the dark for them. The Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, has reported that electricity consumption and production have consistently expanded, resulting in an increased burden on a system not designed for such a large load, meaning that many people are turning to solar panels for security as well as financial and environmental reasons.
Solar power is a “green” and renewable power and doesn’t emit harmful carbon dioxide, which means it’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Close to 3000 pounds of CO2 per year can be saved by a typical home solar energy system, which works out to about 30 tons over its lifetime. These clean, green technologies will be the core of the next industrial revolution, according to Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth director.
The use of solar power drastically reduces electricity costs, and this is one of the most common reasons for choosing it. Federal and state governments offer solar incentives, which help to offset the initial expenses of a solar energy system. The 2005 Energy Policy Act provides two ways to be given a solar energy tax credit from the federal government. Solar energy rebates are also offered by more than 50% of US states.
An average of 164 watts of solar power per square meter is delivered to the Earth’s crust by the sun. If we placed enough solar panels in the Sahara desert to cover just one percent of it, we could generate enough electricity to power the entire planet. This abundance of solar power means there’s more than we’ll ever need. But because the power sent out by the sun arrives as a mixture of light and heat, we can’t use it as it is to directly power a car or a computer. This is why solar panels were invented – to convert the sun’s power into a form we can use, like electricity.
Any extra electricity you create using your solar panels, if you’re attached to the grid, will be paid for by the utility company. Accounting for a solar energy system’s electricity production and enabling utilities to purchase excess energy from homeowners, net metering is allowed in 30 states. The most frequently used option is a single, reversible meter. As a solar energy system produces electricity, the kilowatts are used first to meet on-site energy demand. Excess electricity is then fed into the grid, turning the electric meter backwards, instead of being stored in a battery. The homeowner is credited for the extra kilowatts at the end of each metering period.
Excess electricity can be stored for use on days that are overcast. The ability to store excess electricity in batteries means you don’t need to be attached to the grid even for cloudy days. In stand alone solar power systems batteries are charged with surplus electricity for night-time use. The life cycle of a battery is what determines its suitability for use with solar cells. The amount of electricity required, along with the size of the battery, will determine the number of hours energy will last during periods of no sunlight.
How is solar power produced? To produce solar power, you’ll need a solar panel, which is composed of one or more solar cells. As sunlight falls onto a solar cell, the cell takes in light particles (called photons). Each photon contains power, and when soaked up, the photon releases an electron in the material of the solar cell. Electric wiring on both sides of the cell enable a flow of current as the photon is absorbed. Using this method, the solar cell produces electricity, which can be used immediately, or stored within a battery for future use.
Solar panels are made up of solar cells. An individual solar cell is not able to produce enough power for most purposes; therefore, several are joined in solar panels because of course, they create more electricity together. Solar panels are available in many types and sizes, the most typical of which produce as much as 50 W of electricity and consist of silicon solar cells. Interconnecting solar panels produce even more electricity.
A solar panel is a sizable flat, rectangular shape, usually somewhere between the dimensions of a radiator and a door. Power collectors, called solar cells, make up solar panels. A solar cell is usually 8-sided and blue-black in color, about the size of your palm. Just like the cells in a battery, these cells are intended to generate electricity. However, these cells use sunlight instead of chemicals to create electricity. Solar panels are also called photovoltaic panels (or PV panels), which comes from a combination of the Greek word for light, and electricity pioneer Alessandro Volta.
You may be curious about how sunlight is transformed into electricity. When the sun shines onto a solar cell, photons (light particles) are bombarded onto the upper surface of the cell. Each light particle then carries its energy down through the cell. The photons then transfer their power to electrons in the lower layer of the cell. The electrons use this energy to escape into the circuit by jumping the barrier into the upper layer. The movement of these electrons through the circuit generates the power for our lights and appliances.
Photovoltaic cells generate electricity from sunlight, but there are other methods for making solar energy. You can also get solar-thermal panels which heat water as opposed to creating electricity. Solar-thermal panels work differently than PV panels, and don’t involve electricity. Although they seem similar to solar panels, instead of light particles being grabbed by solar cells, solar thermal panels have black glass which absorbs the sun’s heat. Hot water is generated by directing water between the solar panels, heating it up as it goes, after which it is channeled into the water system and of course, comes out of the faucets as hot water.
It’s incredible to think that the power transmitted by the sun in just one hour, is more than the whole world uses in a year. Designing (or redesigning) a building to take advantage of sunlight and heat is using passive solar power. This can be achieved by adding more insulation to your roof, or installing an extra south-facing window. Any “passive” adjustments like these would be installed either when the house is initially built, or during major renovation. Adding solar panels or other sunlight collectors would be referred to as active solar energy.
Any form of light that hits solar panels can be transformed to solar power, which means that even on gray days they can still create some power. You can receive back-up energy (for example at night) in one of two ways. One is that you can apply to be connected to the grid in the regular way, so that this acts as a back-up supply for when your solar panels are not operating as would be the case after dark. The other option is storing additional electricity from your solar panels in batteries which will then power your appliances and lights during hours of darkness.
In this environment of global warming and diminishing oil resources, it makes sense.to turn our awareness to natural and renewable resources. Solar power systems have become the most widespread source of renewable energy due to the fact that they make no clatter and manufacture no pollutants. Fitting photovoltaic (solar) panels while continuing to be connected to the grid is the most common method of changing to solar power. Any added electricity generated by the solar system is then fed into the grid. In this way the household can get paid for additional electricity produced, and can also acquire electricity at night.
Water bills can be cut by 50 to 70 % by using a first-rate solar water panel system. Apart from the evident environmental benefits of solar power, it makes financial sense. By combining both solar water panel and PV panel systems you can save even more. Installation costs for solar energy systems are high, although there are different grants available to help finance solar technology. A much more reasonably priced option is to assemble your own solar panels.
Traditional fuel sources are proving to be more tricky and costly to use, meaning an expansion in the value of solar power. Considering global warming and pollution it’s apparent that traditional energy sources will no longer be viable. Renewable power sources, by definition, are limitless, unlike fossil fuel. As renewable energy technology continues to mature and the prices of accepted power sources rise, solar technology is starting to become more affordable.
Environmentally aware Hollywood celebrities, such as Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom, have taken their commitment further than recycling and driving hybrid cars. These actors have switched to using solar panels and other renewable power sources in their homes, slashing their energy use. Johnny “Captain Jack Sparrow” Depp’s island in the Bahamas is to be powered by solar power rather than environmentally unfriendly generators. “Dallas” star, Larry Hagman has saved $24,000 per year by switching to solar power, taking his electricity bill from $37,000 to a mere $13,000 a year.
Actor, Edward Norton was so inspired by the solar panels installed in his own house that he created a program, in partnership with BP, to provide solar energy systems to lower income households in the LA area. Through the BP Solar Neighbors program a free solar system is offered to a low income household each time a celebrity buys one. An outstanding idea, the project has already had some of the best of Hollywood talent participating in it, including Owen Wilson, Alicia Silverstone and Will Ferrell. This project is probably contributing to the 30% annual growth of BP’s solar division.
Around 50% the world’s power supply will come from sustainable energy sources within the next 30 years according to forecasts from Shell. A great sustainable energy project is being shared by some of the top global corporations, including Total, General Electric and BP. The recent BP oil spill disaster has turned the world’s attention to the increasing demand for alternative sources of energy and has increased public interest in solar energy as well as other renewable sources of power. The serious consequences of the oil spill have resulted in a substantial reshuffle of investment priorities, with American energy marketing campaigns placing a lot more focus on sustainable sources of power.
The United States is by far the major energy consumer in the world. 25% of the world’s power consumption is by the US – even though it accounts for only 5% of the entire population of the earth. A 100mw solar energy plant in Israel will provide more than 200,000 people with electricity, and they have plans to build an even bigger plant in the future – a 500mw plant. The world’s largest solar electricity system can be found in Bavaria, while around 1/2 of solar panels manufactured worldwide are used in Japan. When looking at these facts we can see how far America has to go in order to make the most of solar energy.
If you switch to using solar panels for your house, there are 2 aspects to the financial benefits. Using solar energy firstly means lower electricity bills. Second, if you stay connected to the grid, you’ve got the option to sell excess electricity to the utility company. With installation costs still being very high, the typical residential solar power system takes around 18 months to have paid for itself – although making your own solar panels is a less expensive option.
Many more individuals are creating their own solar panels now than ever before. Since solar system installation costs are still very high DIY solar panels are fast becoming popular. And the process is easier than you may think. DIY solar panels can be safe and highly effective if created and installed using a good instruction guide. Certainly, creating your own solar panels saves the initial installation costs which means the savings are even greater in the long run.
Property value can be increased by the addition of solar panels. According to HUD, for every $1,000 you save in annual utility bills the value of your home rises by $20,000. A house which is energy efficient is of great value in the eyes of a potential buyer. In addition to the other benefits, a solar system means a home has a back-up system during electricity blackouts. A home-buyer knows that if they buy a house with a solar power system installed, they are also buying peace of mind – knowing that during any power outages they will be unaffected.
Installing panels on a roof that faces east or west will still work – you don’t have to have a south-facing roof. Another effective option is the ground-mounted solar system placed in a flat, un-shaded area. A pole, cemented into the ground holds the solar panel in place. Batteries which have been charged with any surplus electricity produced by the solar panels during the day can provide energy overnight.
Solar panels will still work with a roof that faces east or west and are not reliant on a south/north one. Another effective option is the ground-mounted solar system placed in a flat, un-shaded area. A pole, fixed into the ground with cement holds the solar panel in place. Your overnight energy can come either from the grid – if you’re still connected – or from batteries which have been charged with excess electricity from your solar system during the day.
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