The Technologies Behind Solar Electric Systems

Solar Electric Systems


If you are looking for an alternative source of electricity, you may want to check out solar electric systems. People whose houses are located far from the power grid can benefit from these kinds of set up. Solar power generators harness solar energy to produce electricity so it basically works independently from conventional powerhouses of energy.

Current technologies that can do this include photovoltaic cells or PV, concentrating solar power or CSP, and other experimental technologies. Each of these technologies has advantages and disadvantages that people must be aware of.

  • Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaic cells are popular components of solar electric systems that are used in supplying power to small and medium-sized applications. These include personal gadgets such as a mobile phone and laptop and home appliances like a small TV, a water pump and an electric fan.

The secret behind a photovoltaic cell is a light-related phenomenon called photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect is the conversion of light into direct current or DC electricity. A particular semiconductor such as silicon is capable of the photoelectric effect. Because of this, variants of silicon, such as amorphous silicon, are used to develop solar panels and solar collectors.

Solar cells were initially used as back-up power to satellites. But as prices of the cells became cheaper, it eventually found its way into homes and small buildings. Solar power systems have become popular because of the relatively cheap cost and low maintenance.

  • Concentrating Solar Power

Concentrating solar power plants are used for large-scale generation of electricity. The most popular CSP plant is SEGS or Solar Energy Generating Systems that is located in the Mojave Desert of California. Solar radiation energy was measured to be the highest in the world at this particular place. This type of solar electric system produces a very high amount of electricity.

A CSP plant concentrates solar energy with the use of a parabolic dish. SEGS uses sunlight to produce 90 % of its power supply capacity and the rest is produced using natural gas.

The nine SEGS plants are generating clean and renewable energy to California for more than three decades. You can find more details here

Other experimental solar electric systems emerged over the years

These technologies are the solar pond, solar updraft tower, thermogenerator and space solar power.

  • A solar updraft tower or solar chimney uses heated air to power a turbine that produces electricity. A solar pond produces electricity by using a contrast of weak and high salt solution, which harnesses and stores solar energy. A thermogenerator produces electricity by exploiting the temperature difference between two dissimilar materials. Check this
  • Space solar power is a new breed of solar electric systems since it places an array of solar cells in orbit around Earth to collect solar energy and beam the energy as a microwave radiation back to Earth. “Rectennas” or receiver antennas on Earth receive the microwave radiation for power distribution. More info

These developing solar electric systems are certainly new to you but through time and with the advancement of technologies, home solar systems may actually be the next alternative source of energy for us.

If you are thinking about adding a solar electric system to your home, the costs and the savings are big issues

First, there is the initial outlay of buying and installing the solar panels. But there are also a lot of ways that you will be saving money, not only with your immediate energy savings, but savings against rising fuel costs and the increase in your home’s value as well.

Since so many factors go into installing a solar electricity system, each house needs to be considered on a case by case basis.
The pitch of the roof, the direction it faces, the location of shade trees or buildings that might block sun from reaching the panels must all be evaluated.
And an accurate evaluation is extremely important for each system to function at maximum efficiency.

Professional installers can provide accurate quotes for the materials and installation for your individual site.

Your immediate energy savings will depend on whether or not your local electric company participates in net metering. Net metering refers to the policy which some electric utility companies have of buying back excess electricity that is produced by customers who have solar panel installations. If your local electric company offers this, you will see a substantial decrease in your electric bills.
Some customers actually have a zero balance each month as their solar panel system generates enough electricity for their own use as well as excess to send back into the grid. But even if you electric utility does not allow net metering, your electric bills will still be reduced. During the day when the sun is hitting your solar panels, your appliances will be running off your own solar energy rather than electricity from the grid.
And there is also the probability that solar electric systems will become valuable assets to homes in the near future. As energy costs continue to rise, awareness of the value of alternate energy systems is on the rise.
If you have a history of energy savings that you can show to a potential buyer, it can be a strong incentive for them to choose your home over one that has higher energy operating costs. And since energy prices are predicted to be higher in the future, your solar panel system represents a real hedge against inflation.

A solar electric system also means that your house won’t be affected by brownouts and power outages that can occur due to bad weather or simply due to grid overload. Check this

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