Solar Energy 101

Solar flower

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is, simply, energy provided by the sun. This energy is in the form of solar radiation, which makes the production of solar electricity possible.

Electricity can be produced directly from photovoltaic, PV, cells. (Photovoltaic literally means “light” and “electric.”) These cells are made from materials which exhibit the “photovoltaic effect” i.e. when sunshine hits the PV cell, the photons of light excite the electrons in the cell and cause them to flow, generating electricity.

Solar energy produces electricity when it is in demand – during the day particularly hot days when air-conditioners drive up electricity demand.

In use, solar energy produces no emissions. One megawatt hour of solar electricity offsets about 0.75 to 1 ton of CO2.

PV panels are being used increasingly, both in the city and in remote locations, to produce electricity for households, schools and communities, and to supply power for equipment such as telecommunication and water pumps.

Advantages of Solar Energy
1. The abundance of Solar Energy. ?Even in the middle of winter each square meter of land still receives a fair amount of solar radiation. Sunlight is everywhere and the resource is practically inexhaustible. Even during cloudy days we still receive some sunlight and it is this that can be used as a renewable resource.

2. You don’t pay for sunlight.?Sunlight is totally free. There is of course the initial investment for the equipment. After the initial capital outlay you won’t be receiving a bill every month for the rest of your life from the electric utility.

3. Solar energy is getting more cost effective.?The technology for solar energy is evolving at an increasing rate. At present photovoltaic technology is still relatively expensive but the technology is improving and production is

increasing. The result of this is to drive costs down. Payback times for the equipment are getting shorter and in some areas where the cost of electricity is high payback may be as short as five years.

4. Solar energy is non-polluting.?Solar energy is an excellent alternative for fossil fuels like coal and petroleum because solar energy is practically emission free while generating electricity. With solar energy the danger of further damage to the environment is minimized. The generation of electricity through solar power produces no noise. So noise pollution is also reduced.

5. Accessibility of solar power in remote locations.?Solar power can generate electricity no matter how remote the area as long as the sun shines there. Even in areas that are inaccessible to power cables solar power can produce electricity.

6. Solar energy systems are virtually maintenance free.?Once a photovoltaic array is setup it can last for decades. Once they are installed and setup there are practically zero recurring costs. If needs increase solar panels can be added with ease and with no major revamp.



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