Want to install solar power but not sure how it works? Solar panels can convert sunlight into usable electricity through the photovoltaic effect. The panels contain photovoltaic (PV) cells made of semiconducting materials, usually silicon.
When sunlight photons strike the PV cell, their energy knocks electrons loose in the semiconductor, allowing them to flow freely and generate a DC electrical current. The PV cells are wired together in modules, which are then connected in arrays of modules to produce more power.
The DC output from the array of solar modules flows through an inverter, which converts the direct current into alternating current (AC) that matches the standard electrical grid. This allows the solar power to be used for typical household appliances and fed back into the grid when excess is generated. The resulting AC current from the inverter is ready to provide clean, renewable solar electricity to any home or business. To learn more about this amazing renewable energy source, join us in this blog!
Components Of A Solar Power System
Installing a fully functional solar power system requires more than just the solar panels. Several other important components make up a complete photovoltaic system.
The solar panels themselves contain photovoltaic cells to absorb and convert sunlight. Panels come in different technologies, with monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film being most common. Inverters are needed to transform the DC current from the panels into usable AC current for your home.
The next component is metering, using a bidirectional meter to monitor household electricity usage and any excess solar energy fed back into the grid. You then have rooftop, ground, or pole mounts required to angle and position the solar panels for optimal sun exposure.
Finally, electrical wiring connects all solar system components into a cohesive unit. It routes the electricity where it needs to go, such as into your home or the electrical panel. Solar energy can efficiently power residences with all of these elements working together seamlessly.
Solar Panel Efficiency
The efficiency of solar panels determines how much of the sun’s energy they can convert into usable electricity. There are a few important factors that impact the efficiency rating.
Firstly, the material used in the solar cells makes a difference. Monocrystalline silicon solar panels typically have the highest efficiency ratings of 15-22% because of their purity and uninterrupted lattice structure. Due to their irregular molecular structure, polycrystalline panels formed by molten silicon poured into moulds are slightly less efficient at 13-16%. Finally, thin-film panels made by depositing semiconductor material onto substrates like glass have the lowest efficiency at 9-11% but are very affordable.
Secondly, the orientation and tilt angle of the panels is key. Solar panels operate optimally when pointed directly perpendicular to the sun’s rays. The ideal tilt angle varies by location and season, depending on the arc of the sun throughout the year. Regular adjustments to follow the sun more closely can increase efficiency. Even small amounts of shading from structures, trees or dirt can greatly hamper solar panel productivity by blocking a portion of the sunlight. Higher ambient temperatures will also reduce efficiency slightly.
Using Solar Power Around the Clock
A common concern with solar power is that it only generates electricity when the sun is out. However, there are a few ways solar homes can continue using solar energy even after sunset.
One option is battery storage. Excess solar electricity generated during the day can be stored in batteries like lithium-ion or lead-acid. These batteries then discharge power at night to keep the home running solely on solar energy, allowing complete independence from the electrical grid.
Another approach is net metering. A bidirectional net meter tracks electricity usage and any excess solar power fed back into the grid, earning credit. This credit is automatically applied at night when the solar panels aren’t actively generating power. Time-of-use electricity plans provide cheaper rates during daylight hours, further motivating solar homes to shift more energy usage to daytime when production is highest. Rates then increase in the evening when solar power is unavailable.
Advantages Of Solar Power
Installing solar panels provides homeowners with a range of benefits:
Lower electricity bills
Once paid off, the cost of solar power is nearly zero. This provides decades of free electricity.
Increased home value
Homes with solar power systems typically sell for 4% more than those without solar.
Tax rebates and incentives
Federal and state-level rebates and tax credits are available to reduce the upfront cost of solar panel systems.
Producing your own solar electricity allows you to unplug from the grid and avoid utility rate hikes.
Solar panels are very durable, with warranties of 25-30 years. Apart from cleaning, they require almost no maintenance.
Disadvantages Of Solar Power
While the advantages clearly outweigh the downsides, there are a few potential disadvantages to consider as well:
Even with rebates, solar power systems involve a significant upfront investment, depending on the size.
Proper solar installation may require roof upgrades or repairs, which add to costs. Older roofs may need replacement sooner.
Some homeowners associations restrict solar panel installation due to aesthetics. Visibility and glare can also be issues.
No sun, no power
Output relies heavily on the amount of sunlight available. Cloudy weather and storms will hamper energy generation.
Systems tied to the grid stop working in a power outage unless you also have batteries.
Solar Energy Storage Options
When the sun sets, solar panels stop producing electricity. However, two primary methods exist for storing excess solar energy during the day for use at night.
The first option is batteries. Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries can chemically store electricity generated by the solar panels. This allows true off-grid use and backup power during grid outages. However, batteries require added equipment like inverters and battery management systems, making them a bit more expensive.
The second approach is grid-tied net metering. This uses the electrical grid as a battery by getting credit for excess power fed back in during daylight. Grid-tied systems are much simpler and cheaper, but you remain dependent on the grid. Unless you also have battery backups, grid-tied systems will shut off in a power outage. As technology continues improving, battery costs are decreasing steadily.
Environmental Benefits Of Solar Power
Switching to solar power provides significant environmental advantages compared to fossil fuel-generated electricity.
Firstly, solar panels generate clean electricity after installation without releasing carbon dioxide emissions, smog or other pollution into the atmosphere. Widespread solar adoption has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production and combat climate change.
Solar energy is also completely renewable and sustainable – we won’t run out of sunshine like coal or natural gas. Rooftop solar allows households to produce their own electricity without using additional land for ground-mounted panels or power plant construction. And the solar photovoltaic process doesn’t require water for cooling like fossil fuel-powered plants.
With solar currently providing just 14.7% of Australia’s total electricity generation, there remains enormous potential for further growth and positive environmental impact.
Join The Solar Power Revolution In Queensland
Switching to solar power provides Queensland households with an array of benefits. Solar panels can significantly reduce or even eliminate expensive electricity bills by harnessing free and abundant sunlight. And once the system is paid off, the cost of solar power plunges to nearly zero for decades of free renewable energy.
Solar power systems also increase home value for a good return on investment. Generating your own electricity provides energy independence and insulation from rising utility rates. The technology is low maintenance and durable, with warranties of 25-30 years. And solar energy is clean and sustainable, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.
With the federal and Queensland solar rebates and incentives now available, the time to go solar has never been better. Contact Your Electrical Expert for a custom quote for solar installation on the Gold Coast or throughout Brisbane. Their team of fully licensed electricians will handle your solar power system professionally from start to finish. Invest in solar today for a brighter energy future!