A solar panel is a group of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells connected together electronically, packaged in a module and mounted to a supporting structure. The cells collect energy from the sun which can then be converted into a useable source of power. The system generally includes a set of solar panels and an inverter, and some systems also include storage batteries or solar trackers.
The inverter is what converts the DC solar energy into usable AC electricity, which can then be used immediately or stored in batteries for later use. The solar tracker follows the movement of the sun throughout the day in order to collect as much energy as possible.
There are many advantages of solar panels, the biggest is that they don’t produce any green house gases. You get all of the electricity you need, without increasing your carbon footprint on the earth. The process of producing solar energy doesn’t create any smoke, gas or any other type of chemical by-product.
Another huge advantage of using solar power is the free supply of energy. Aside from the initial cost of equipment and installation, and maintaining the equipment, there are no other costs involved. Solar energy doesn’t need a continuous supply of raw materials like coal or oil. Operational costs are much lower as well, because raw materials don’t have to be extracted from the earth, refined or transported. The only materials needed is the radiation from the sun, which is supplied in large quantities, and completely free of charge.
The life expectancy of solar panels varies from one manufacturer to another, but in general, they are expected to last for up to 40 years. Most panels carry a warranty between 25-30 years.
Anywhere there is sunlight, you have a power source for your solar panels. Power sources used to produce conventional electricity, like gas, coal and oil, have to be transported great distances before they reach your home. This means additional costs ‚Äì labor, fuel for trucks or ships, wear and tear on the roads, plus the cost to the environment because of the pollution created by the transportation methods.
One of the main reasons people choose to go solar is to get off the grid. Saving the Earth is a big factor, as well, but the concept of producing free energy fom a renewable resource is the goal for many. No more monthly bills or brown-outs to worry about. With good solar panels and an adequate storage system, you never have to rely on conventional energy.
This is particularly advantageous to people living in rural areas who experience frequent power outages, and where the cost to install power lines can be extremely high, or not possible at all.
Producing and installing solar panels creates more jobs for electricians. This is a great advantage to individuals as well as the economy as a whole. From researching and developing new techniques and technologies, to the actual building of the products, hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been created. The more solar panels are put to use, the more jobs will be created. Currently, only about 4 % of the electricity consumed world wide is produced by solar power.
The price of fossil fuels continues to rise, whereas the price per watt to convert solar energy continues to drop. Within the past decade, the cost has already been cut in half. The cost to mine raw materials keeps rising as well, but the cost of solar radiation is now, and will always be free.
But, the worst part about conventional fuel sources is the destruction it causes. Whole forests and vast amounts of eco-systems are being wiped out with every mining project. From the destruction caused by extraction to irresponsible practices that cause bodily harm to workers, and even death, the cost is more than society can bear.
Major examples include the Niger Delta where excessive oil extraction has poisoned the water which provided the main source of food for the local villages. And Canada’s tar sands which destroys large amounts of the Boreal Forest and creates large toxic ponds from the by-products. A more widely known example is the BP oil spill of 2010. Eleven people were killed and 780 thousand cubic meters of crude oil was spilled into the sea.
Solar power avoids all of these problems, and many more. Solar technology is rapidly advancing. What used to be expensive, inefficient and bulky, is becoming cheaper, more efficient and more accessible all the time.