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Solar energy definition

Sun is the ultimate and natural source of energy. It's a free-of-cost and vital gift of the universe to a living being whose absence can hinder the survival rate. The energy we receive from the sun is called "solar energy" (an abundant energy source). The word "solar" is the Latin word for "sun," and energy provided by the sun is termed solar energy. One hour of sunshine on earth can meet world energy demand for an entire year.

Solar energy definition

Sun energy is a renewable source of energy that can be harnessed with technologies to produce new forms of energy like solar power and solar thermal energy. Scientists have designed equipment that can convert solar energy to electric or thermal energy, called solar power or energy.

"Energy from the sun in the form of light and heat can be termed solar energy. Humans can harness this energy to produce electricity, make hot water or steam, and produce heat."

The sun's energy can be harnessed in these ways:

Photovoltaic cells These are called solar panels and are used to convert sunlight into electricity.
Solar thermal technology This technology uses sun heat to make hot water or steam.
Passive solar heating Sun rays enter through the window to heat the inside of a building.

People use the ancient sun as a heat source in their daily households or professional work. John Herschel used the solar collector in 1830 to cook food during an adventure in Africa. But with time and new inventions, these solar collectors are improved in terms of technology and are termed solar panels.

These were made with silicon chips discovered by scientist Bell Telephone in 1954. These (silicon) were found in the sand, creating an electric charge after exposure to lots of sunlight. These shiny solar panels are fitted on the roof of a building or house, which converts solar energy into electric energy. People or families use this solar power in their daily routine work, and even solar chips are used in satellites to power space satellites.

Working/ functioning of Solar panels

Production of electricity from solar panels is a proper step-by-step functioning such as:

a) Capturing of solar energy by solar panels

  • The solar panels capture the sunlight and convert that into electric energy at your home after implementation. These panels are mono-crystalline silicon, one or three semiconductors, thin film solar cells, or polycrystalline silicon. Sunlight falls on the thin layer of semi-conductive material that triggers the release of electrons for silicon atoms. The photovoltaic effect is formed when negatively charged electrons attract to the positively charged electron within the solar panel. Electric current is produced by them, harnessed by wiring connected to solar panels for producing electricity.

b) Solar inverters convert DC to AC.

  • Here comes the role of solar inverters that make produced power usable in the home as electricity. The electricity produced by solar panels is in the form of DC(direct current- in this electricity flows in one direction), but home appliance use AC (alternating current- in this electricity flows in both directions). Therefore solar inverters convert DC power to AC power.

c) Electric panels distribute electricity.

  • Electric panels further distribute the produced electricity throughout the home, and even these panels have circuit breakers that cut off the flow of current to the electric circuit in case:
  • When a fault or surge occurs
  • Prevent overload in electrical files

To avoid this critical situation, appliances or electric devices are not directly connected to solar panels.

d) Consumption and production of electricity are recorded

  • In a normal way, we consume electricity from the electric grid, which utility is recorded by electric meter and every monthly bill is dispatched to you.
  • But the use of solar panels lowers the amount of electricity consumed by the electric grid. Due to this, the utility meter records less consumption, which will generate problems for the utility company. So, in this case, a smart meter is installed in homes that record the actual electricity consumption and send real-time usage data to the company for billing, research purpose, and customer services but also estimates the power consumed from solar batteries.

e) Access energy is stored in solar batteries

  • When installed solar panels in a home or office generate more energy than you can use, this left extra electricity can be stored in the solar batteries. This stored energy is useful on rainy days or nights instead of drawing electricity from the grid. Storage depends on the type of batteries, i.e., some can store excess DC electricity produced by solar panels or can be charged by AC electricity previously converted by your inverter.

Advantages of solar energy

Solar energy definition

a) Renewable source of energy

  • There is no worry about depleting this natural energy as it renews itself daily. It is the cleanest, most free, consistent, and most abundant renewable energy resource that produces energy and never runs out in short supply. One hour of sunlight is enough to provide electricity for every person on earth, even for a year. It has been available daily and reachable to almost all areas of the world for almost 5 billion years because, according to scientists, the sun will die then.

b) Reduce carbon emissions and prevent the environment

  • Producing solar power creates no carbon emissions and prevents the greenhouse effect. The mining and drilling of fossil fuel workforce are involved, damaging the environment by causing pollution and affecting human health. Even in extracting fossil fuel, a human can die or suffer from long-term death disease.

c) Help in reduction of home's electricity bill.

  • Despite producing power from a natural source, the main advantage of solar power is that it provides lower utility bills. As the solar system fulfills the energy required in day-to-day work, energy bills will drop significantly. The electricity bill can be even more offset regarding the credits for the surplus energy produced by the solar system.

d) The best method of generating electricity

  • Electricity production involves various methods like generating electricity in hydropower plants using steam turbines, natural gas, coal, windmill biomass, geothermal, and hydropower. But generating electricity with solar power is the best method for all because of the involvement of renewable resources (sun), which have no fear of extinction and are available for everyone. It doesn't use workforce, water, air, and a certain time for generating electricity.

e) Improve the value of the home.

  • People mostly like houses having solar panels installed to buy due to the various advantages of solar power. A residential area with a solar energy system is highly valued and increases the home's value. A house with solar panels helps the owner save on electricity bills and improve the house's worth.

f) With the increase in a technology price decrease

  • In the past few years, there has been tremendous improvement in solar power technology to uplift its utility. With technological advancement, solar manufacturers have lowered costs, making them accessible to more consumers. The government regulates many federal tax credits and state initiative programs to minimize the out-of-pocket amount customers spend on a new solar system.

g) The diverse use of solar power

  • Solar energy produced from solar panels provides power to our homes, appliances, and areas where channelling power from the grid is impossible and impractical. These regions are like boats, remote, satellites, and people who can't afford or get paid for electricity.

h) Rising power prices

  • The fact that there has been a hike in electricity prices for the past ten years and its less availability everywhere reduces its value shortly. Solar panels reduce the electricity bill with net metering, even sometimes consumers sell extra energy back to utility companies to increase electricity prices to their advantage.

i) Low maintenance costs

  • Solar panels are implemented in a particular space and are immovable, making them easy to maintain. Once installed, they work unstoppably (without any maintenance) for many years in their approx. Twenty-five years of life span, they need low maintenance, so users can get their money worth investing in solar panels.

Disadvantages of solar energy

Solar energy definition

a) Initial installation of panels has high costs.

  • Yet solar panels are renewable sources of energy, but they are costly to buy. Even though their costs have been reduced over the last decade but still their initial cost of buying is only affordable for some house owners. These solar panels are the investment that will pay you for the next 25 years of electricity. But still, it's only possible for some to purchase them overnight. To resolve this, the government has made some financing packages allowing homeowners to pay according to their financial availability and save for one month.
  • The solar system comprises inverters, wiring, solar panels, and installation, which must be paid for upfront. As solar systems reduce the amount of bill payment throughout their functioning, that's why they are charged once. Choosing solar with a high-quality company will maximize your investment by giving your lifetime returns and prove the best financial decision for solar. Sometimes, banks offer special offers or great financing options for choosing solar panels.
  • Even free online quotes or videos having all information required to move forward are available.

b) Dependency on sunlight and weather

  • The working of solar panels depends on sunlight as they capture the sunlight for producing electricity, but this process hinders due to weather conditions. During the rainy season and winters, sunlight disappears or shines less, affecting their capacity. The rather solar panel doesn't need 100% sunlight to work as they can pick up some of the sun's energy that provides you ample power your home can bank.
  • The energy collected from the solar panels during summer is utilized on rainy or cloudy days and in fewer sunlight periods such as evening and winter. Credit bank of power will work for us even when the sun doesn't shine.

In some parts of the world, the sun doesn't disappear for months (4-5 months). For example, Alaska is a place where the sun disappears in the wintertime. Here solar panels are of no use in winter.

c) Not suitable for every roof type

  • Solar panels need proper roof space, material, orientation, and shading, all determining whether your roof is suitable for solar panels. A large roof without obstruction and south facing is ideal for implementing solar panels instead of a west-facing small roof surrounded by trees.

d) Storage of solar energy is expensive.

  • Solar panels generate energy stored in solar batteries (an essential to the solar panel). These batteries came in different sizes and types, making them costly (amount in thousands). Therefore buying and maintenance of solar batteries are only affordable for some.

e) Lengthy permission process

  • Implementing solar panels in your house is not your private concern. You must take a permit from the local government electricity office before installation. It takes work to change or replace. It's a matter of life in which the government is involved. It takes weeks and months to get permission for a project installation due to government restrictions (depending on the government's time to provide permission).
  • In solar projects taking permission is the most time-consuming and burdensome procedure. That's why the user must clearly understand the timeline provided by the installer and stay in contact with the project manager for smooth running.

f) Relocation difficulty

  • It is difficult to relocate or uninstall a solar system because it is time-consuming and expensive. Panels are not structured to take you from house to house but are considered a lifetime investment due to their property.

g) Associated with Pollution

  • The rather solar energy system is less polluted than other energy sources. However, some hazardous products or toxic materials are still used to produce a solar photovoltaic system that indirectly affects the environment. Greenhouse gases are emitted in the transportation and installation of the solar system.

h) Scarcity of material

  • Solar system manufacturing requires some rare materials, a primary problem of PV technology because many products are by-products of other products. Advancements in nanotechnology and the recycling process of PV material increase the efficiency of solar cells, and that quality boosts the supply of solar panels.

i) Have some environmental downside

  • Now solar panel has become a popular energy-generating source and is widely used by people, but they may contain some hazardous material, same as electronic. Therefore disposing of this hazardous waste becomes an additional challenge.

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