What Is Solar Electricity?

The United States of America, in spite of its thrust on harnessing renewable sources of energy is heavily dependent on coal, oil, and natural gas to meet its energy demands. Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy. These will gradually dwindle with time. Moreover the emissions produced by these have an adverse effect on the environment.The non-renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, geothermal etc. are constantly replenished and will never run out. The sun is one of the major sources of renewable of energy. The heat from the sun can be tapped for generating electricity, heating and lighting homes, producing hot water, solar cooling, and a variety of commercial and industrial uses.

How solar energy is tapped?

The heat and light from the sun are tapped through photo voltaic cells whose panels are laid on the terrace. The PV models are quite simple, effective and durable in design. They will sit in the sun and run household appliances, charge batteries, as well as give off the surfeit power to the utility grid.

What is photo voltaic effect?

There is an array of PV cells in a solar panel. These are able to convert the sun’s energy into electricity through a phenomenon called photo voltaic effect. This scientific procedure was discovered by French physicist Alexander-Edmund Becquerel in 18339. When sunlight hits a PV cell, the cell absorbs some of the photons. These photons can be described as particles of electromagnetic energy. When the photo voltaic cells absorb photons, the energy from the photon is transferred to an electron in an atom of the solar cell. This energized electron is then able to overcome the bond that binds it to the atom and starts moving. This generates a hole in the atom. The photo voltaic cells have a P-N junction, which is a layer formed by the intimate contact of P-type and N-type semiconductors. An electric field is created at the PN junction and holes move in the opposite direction from electrons, thereby producing an electric current.

What are the types of PV cells?

PV cells can be broadly classified into two categories. They are -crystalline silicon or thin-film. Crystalline silicon modules are made of either mono crystalline, multi crystalline, or ribbon silicon. Thin-film uses various types of materials such as amorphous silicon, and semiconductors like cadmium tellurium or CIGS (copper indium gallium dissidence). But crystalline silicon is more popular then thin–film. It has captured almost 80% of the market. Once the current is produced at the solar panels you will need other components such as inverters, charge controllers and batteries, to use and store it. Solar power systems can be of various types. They are

PV-DIRECT SYSTEMS: These have the simplest design among solar power systems. They are made of the fewest components viz. the solar panels and the load. They do not have batteries and are not hooked to the grid system. This implies they can be used only when the sun shines. You use it for powering selective applications, notably water pumping and ventilation.

OFF-GRID SYSTEMS: These systems are often seen in rural areas which do not have access to electric grids to meet power demands. These systems operate independently of the grid. They have to be robust enough to meet all the electricity demands of a house. They have batteries that store the electricity to be used at night when the sun is not shining or on cloudy days. They are also equipped with a charge controller to protect the battery bank from overcharge, an inverter to convert the DCpower from the PV cells to AC for use with AC household appliances. Beside these, they have all the electricity safety gears to enable the system to run smoothly without a break down.

GRID-TIED SYSTEMS WITH BATTERY BACKUP: These are very similar to off-grid system and have the all the components that the other has. The only difference is that it is tied to the grid. Therefore when the solar power system is not supplying enough power, the grid system can supplement the need. In case of a reverse situation where surfeit power is being produced by the solar power system, the excess power can be sent to the grid. This will earn the house owner some credits.

BATTERY LESS GRID-TIED SYSTEMS: These are composed of PV array, inverter(s), and required electrical safety gear (i.e., fuses/breakers/disconnects/monitoring). Having this is almost same as having a house connected to utility grid. The only difference is that lion share of the electricity you use, comes from the sun, or at least a part of it. The only flip side is that in case of an outrage, where utility grid fails, these systems cannot operate at nights or on cloudy days, as there is no battery to store power.

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