Back in the day, silk plants did not look real; you could definitely tell that…
Solar Power shows the most potential as a form of Renewable Energy. It’s also flexible enough to be used for very small personal tasks, or as the power source for a large Electrical Power Plant. One of its many good points is that, it does not require an infrastructure to be functional.
As a homeowner, you should have a basic understanding of this solar technology, so you can make intelligent decisions about how you may use it. Solar Power can be made complicated and expensive, yet it does not have to be either of these. There are opportunities here, and you don’t want to miss them.
There are just a few basic components you will need to put the sun’s solar energy to work for you. The main component is of course, the solar panels. How you intend to use for the power, will dictate the balance of the equipment you’ll need. Initially, let’s look at a stand-alone system that will not be connected to the power company or the AC voltage of your home. This system will require at least one Solar Panel, a Battery and a Charge Controller.
The Charge Controller prevents overcharging, protecting the batteries. Uncontrolled this can reduce battery performance or lifespan, and may pose a safety risk. It can also prevent us from completely draining a battery, or perform controlled discharges, depending on the battery technology. This device is simply a small box that connects between the solar panels and the batteries.
A Charge Controller typically does this by limiting the rate at which electrical current is added to or drawn from batteries. It’s often intended for use with 12 or 24 volt solar panels, and it’s sized to handle a specific amount of amperage, and wattage of solar power. The Charge Controller is the ideal for protection for your solar panels and batteries.
Controllers using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) technologies are more electronically sophisticated, adjusting charging rates depending on the battery’s level, to allow charging closer to its maximum capacity. Charge controllers may also monitor battery temperature to prevent overheating.
If you want to operate AC products with your Solar Power, you’ll need an Inverter. The Power Inverter is an electronic device intended to take a low-voltage DC power from a solar panel and its battery, converting it to standard 115 volt AC power like the current you have in your home. This conversion process thereby allows you to use many of your household appliances and your electronic products virtually anywhere.
Different inverters are made to produce different types of AC power. Some sophisticated electronics do not function properly using a square wave AC, which the type of power produced by some inexpensive Inverters. On the other hand, if you want to power lights, motors like fans or the compressor in your refrigerator, this type of inverted power is just fine. You’ll want to use a Pure-Sine Inverter to power some of the more select items.
Grid Tie Inverters can feed solar energy back into the distribution network, the power company’s wires. They produce Alternating Current with the same wave shape and frequency as supplied by the distribution system. This is type of Inverter you would use if your going to connect your energy to the power company.
How does a solar panel work? It’s just pure magic, you put the panel in sunlight and it magically produces electricity – it’s marvelous! Actually, the semiconductor material must absorb photons in sunlight. This absorption in turn releases atoms, which begin to flow through the semiconductor to create an electrical charge, put simply.
Today, you have a choice in solar panel technology, as the industry is evolving. There is the traditional, which to most, would appear like a framed picture with glass. Another is referred to as, thin-film. Which you will find presented in the typical glass frame approach, as well as a flexible non-breakable material. Both offer different levels of sophistication and efficiency.
One of the more recent techniques that is being used today to improve efficiency are solar panels that react to more than one frequency of light. This permits the panel to gather more energy from the sun, and even perform in times of clouds. A Triple Junction module for example, combines three separate tuned PV layers for red, green and blue light.
There has been lot of innovation that has gone into improvements in recent years. All the components involved are becoming more efficient, and costs have come down significantly. It’s important to understand the sizing or the amount of power you can get from a Solar system. It can be misleading, for example a small Solar Power System may offer 650 watts of energy. You think to yourself, I can’t even run my coffee pot on that! Actually, that is not the case.
That 650 watts is per-hour of solar energy collected from the sun. If you live in an area that has an average of 6 hours of sunlight per day, that’s 3,900 watts per day, or 117,000 watts per month. Almost everywhere across the country we have 4.5 to 6.5 hours average annual daily sunlight. Your coffee pot may actually draw a 1000 watts per hour, and in reality only consume 160 watts to make a pot of coffee. Based on that, you’re good for 731 pots of coffee per month from a system that small. I hope you like coffee!
In small systems, the extra power is stored in deep cell batteries. In larger systems, you can connect directly to the power company. They use the extra power, and provide you power in return during hours of darkness. This is credited against your electrical costs. A favorite past time of some Solar Power owners is to watch the electrical meter go backwards. There’s something about this phenomenon that amuses them.
Barry Dean is an Engineer with http://SolarWorks211.Com an eCommerce retail outlet for Renewable Energy products, and a passion for Solar Power. He has been an enthusiast of Solar Power for almost four decades. SolarWorks211