What is Solar Energy and
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Solar energy is the radiant energy that the
sun produces. This is the result of a process called nuclear fusion - the
joining of smaller atoms to form a larger atom.
The sun is a giant ball of gas consisting primarily of hydrogen and helium.
Through nuclear fusion, hydrogen atoms in the sun's core combine to form
helium atoms over and over again.
The Law of Conservation of Energy
Each time this nuclear fusion reaction takes place, the nuclei of four
hydrogen atoms fuse to become one helium atom. However, the resulting helium
atom has less mass than the four hydrogen atoms that fused with each other.
Does this mean that some matter is "lost" during the nuclear fusion process?
No, it isn't really lost.
Due to the law of conservation of energy, this "lost matter" is converted
into the radiant energy that the sun emits into space.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
Once the sun emits this radiant energy into space, it makes its way to earth
as electromagnetic waves traveling at the speed of light. We perceive this
solar radiation as light, but in fact it spreads over a wider band of
wavelengths known as the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic
spectrum organizes electromagnetic energy by wavelength.
One misconception about the solar energy that reaches earth is that it
includes the heat from the sun. In fact, the earth doesn't receive any heat
from the sun since it's more than 93 million miles away! What actually
happens is that when the radiant energy from the sun is absorbed by an
object, its energy is converted into heat.
Solar Energy: The Ultimate Renewable Energy
The sun produces a tremendous amount of energy. Every second, more than 4
million metric tons of hydrogen is converted into helium. But even at this
rate, the sun will continue producing solar energy for another 5 billion
years! As a result, solar energy is considered the ultimate renewable
Why use solar energy?
As a homeowner, this is one of the first questions that comes up when you are
considering the use of solar energy for your home. Every homeowner will have
their own specific reasons for going solar, but the majority can be grouped into
Understanding why solar energy use is important for you will help you develop a
solar energy plan that can bring your solar vision to life.
Many homeowners choose to use solar energy because of the positive impact they
will have on the environment.
Global warming and climate change are major issues facing the world today... and
you can be part of the solution by taking advantage of solar energy!
Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy doesn't produce the harmful pollutants
responsible for increasing the greenhouse effect which leads to global warming.
Solar energy is a clean and sustainable source of energy that you can use for
solar electricity, solar heating, solar cooling, and solar lighting.
By using solar energy, you...Will reduce your carbon footprint, and Can feel
good about being a responsible global citizen
Another key factor for homeowners considering solar energy is the financial
aspect. The financial benefits of solar energy can be seen in reduced utility
payments as you use solar energy for electricity, heating, cooling, and
lighting. In addition, by reducing your homes operating costs you are also
increasing the value of your home.
As you can see, taking advantage of solar economics will...Save you money NOW,
and Provide you with a sound investment for your FUTURE
A third answer to the question "Why use solar energy" is the energy independence
it will give you.
By using solar energy, you will reduce your dependence on the utility companies.
You will no longer need to have electricity delivered to your home as you will
be able to produce your own solar power electricity. Solar technology will also
free you from using traditional energy sources for heating and cooling. All of
this means you will finally be free from rising utility rates!
Solar energy also gives you a level of reliability and security that other
energy sources can't match. When your neighbors don't have power due to an
outage, you won't be affected since your home generates it's own electricity and
heat (this is also known as microgeneration).
In addition to the personal security you will gain by freeing yourself from your
local utility companies, you will also help to remove our dependency to foreign
energy producers which, in today's world, is critical for national security.
How is Solar Energy Used?
In the future, solar energy will be the largest source of global
But many homeowners are already taking advantage of today's solar energy
technology. They are saving money and saving the environment.
Let's take a look at how solar energy is used by these forward thinking
Well, there are four basic uses of solar energy...
Solar energy can be used to generate electricity for your home using
photovoltaic solar cells. These solar cells are combined into the solar panels
that you see on many rooftops today. When you connect the solar panels to an
inverter, you can use the electricity they generate with any electronic device
in your home.
Solar energy can be used to heat your home, your domestic water, or your
swimming pool. Using solar collectors, the radiant energy from the Sun is
captured and converted into heat. Solar heating systems collect, store, and
distribute this heat using passive or active solar energy methods.
Solar cooling takes advantage of the Sun when it is most needed...
...In the hot summer months!
The three basic approaches to solar cooling are passive cooling, solar thermal
cooling, and photovoltaic cooling.
Solar energy lighting can be used to enhance your home's outdoor features or to
provide natural interior lighting. The two primary applications of solar
lighting are outdoor solar lighting and daylighting.
How is Solar Energy Stored?
One of the drawbacks of solar energy systems is that the Sun doesn't
provide a constant stream of energy. On cloudy days or at night, the amount of
energy your system receives is reduced or eliminated altogether. This in turn
impacts the amount of electricity or heat that your system produces during those
To overcome this drawback, homeowners can take advantage of several methods
available to them for storing solar energy. The methods available differ
depending on whether you are using solar electricity applications or solar
Solar Electricity Storage
Homeowners are able to generate solar electricity by using a photovoltaic solar
power system. There are two primary methods of Energy Storage with a PV solar
One way solar power storage can be accomplished is by using a battery bank to
store the electricity generated by the PV solar power system. A battery solar
power storage system is used in a grid-tied PV system with battery backup and
stand-alone PV systems.
The major components of a battery solar power system are...
Charge Controller: Prevents the battery bank from overcharging by interrupting
the flow of electricity from the PV panels when the battery bank is full.
Battery Bank: A group of batteries wired together. The batteries are similar to
car batteries, but designed specifically to endure the type of charging and
discharging they'll need to handle in a solar power system.
System Meter: Measures and displays your solar PV systems performance and
Main DC Disconnect: A DC rated breaker between the batteries and the inverter.
Allows the inverter to be quickly disconnected from the battery bank for
The third type of PV solar power system is a grid-tied PV system. This system
can actually use the grid as its solar energy storage system. This is done using
With net-metering, when you produce excess solar electricity, you send it to the
grid and your electric meter rolls backwards. Later on, at night for example,
when your system is not producing electricity, you can pull electricity from the
grid and your electric meter will roll forward. You are essentially using the
grid to store your solar electricity!
Solar Thermal Storage
There are three solar heating applications...
Solar Space Heating
Solar Water Heating
Solar Pool Heating
Each of these solar heating applications uses their own methods for Solar
Thermal Energy Storage.
Thermal mass and water tanks are the two primary methods of storing solar energy
in solar space heating systems.
Thermal Mass: Used in both passive and active space heating systems. Absorbs
heat during the day and slowly releases it at night.
Water Tanks: Used in active liquid systems. A heat-exchanger transfers the heat
from the heat-transfer fluid to the water in the tank.
Solar water heating systems use water tanks for the storage of solar energy.
Both passive and active solar water heating use water tanks. Active indirect
systems use a heat-exchanger to transfer the heat from the heat-transfer fluid.
The other solar water heating systems use the actual household water and
therefore do not need a water tank with a heat-exchanger.
Solar pool heating uses the swimming pool water for solar energy storage. By
circulating your swimming pool water through solar pool collectors, you will be
able to extend your swimming season.
How Does Solar Energy
Home solar power systems can be broken down into either solar heating
systems or solar electric systems.
To understand how both types of solar power systems work, you will need to
What is Solar Energy?
Solar Heating Principles
Solar Electricity Principles
What is Solar Energy?
At it's simplest, solar energy is the light produced by the Sun. Sunlight is a
form of radiant energy that travels to the earth as electromagnetic waves.
In reality, the light we see is just a small part of the energy we receive from
the Sun. The radiant energy from the Sun covers the full breadth of the
Using solar technology, we are able to "capture" the Sun's radiant energy and
convert it to either heat or electricity.
Solar Heating Principles
Solar heating systems perform three basic functions...
Collecton: Radiant energy from the Sun is captured and converted to solar
thermal energy using solar collectors.
Storage: The solar thermal energy is stored using thermal mass, water tanks, or
Distribution: Distribution of the heat can be done with both active solar energy
and passive solar energy methods.
These three basic principles are used for solar space heating, solar water
heating, and solar pool heating systems.
Find out more: Solar Heating
Solar Electricity Principles
Solar electric systems use solar cells to convert the Sun's radiant energy into
electricity. This is done using a principle known as the photovoltaic effect.
Since a solar cell only generates about 1-2 Watts of power, it is necessary to
combine them into solar power panels in order to generate more power. Solar
panels are in turn combined to form solar arrays.
These solar panels and arrays are the key component of all residential solar
power systems. The other components of the system convert the generated DC
electricity into AC electricity so it can be used by the electrical appliances
in your home.
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