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Solar Energy Collection
Solar energy is one of the world's most popular renewable energy sources. Solar power is created by converting sunlight into electricity, and you can use it to power homes, businesses, and even entire cities.
Solar is a clean, sustainable energy resource that can help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and it's an increasingly affordable option for powering our world. More people are turning to solar power every day, and there are various ways to get started with solar energy.
Methods Of Solar Energy Collection
Solar energy is an abundant renewable energy source available on Earth. It can be harnessed in a number of ways, from large-scale solar farms to small residential rooftop installations. Here are some standard methods used to collect solar energy:
Solar PV (photovoltaics) are devices that convert light into electricity. They are products of semiconductor materials similar to those used in computer chips. When a solar cell is directly exposed to sunlight, it produces direct current (DC) electricity.
Solar cells are often combined into larger units called modules or panels. A typical module is about the size of a sheet of paper and contains about 40 solar cells. Many modules are arranged into arrays that can cover a large area, such as a roof. The more sunlight that hits an array, the more electricity it produces.
Concentrating solar-thermal power
Concentrating solar-thermal power (CST) systems use mirrors to concentrate (or focus) sunlight onto receivers that absorb the heat and convert it into thermal energy. Industries then use this thermal energy to produce electricity. There are two types of CST systems: parabolic trough and power tower.
Parabolic trough system
In a parabolic trough system, long rectangular mirrors are positioned in curved rows that form troughs. The mirrors reflect and concentrate solar onto a receiver pipe that runs along the focal point of the trough. The fluid in the pipe is heated to a very high temperature and used to produce steam that propels a turbine connected to an electric generator.
Power tower system
A power tower system uses an array of flat, mirrored panels (called heliostats) to direct sunlight onto a receiver on top of a power tower. The receiver collects the sun's heat and converts it into solar thermal energy that drives a turbine connected to an electric generator.
Solar Water Heating Basics
Solar water heating (SWH) systems use solar collectors to absorb the sun's heat energy and transfer it to a fluid, which then heats water for domestic or commercial use. There are three categories of solar collectors: flat-plate, evacuated-tube, and thermosiphon solar water heaters.
Flat-plate solar collectors
Flat-plate solar collectors are the most prevalent type used in SWH systems. They consist of a dark absorber plate inside an insulated housing, usually coated with a heat-absorbing material. The absorber is attached to fluid piping and is covered with a glass or plastic cover that allows sunlight to pass through but reduces heat loss.
Evacuated-tube solar collectors
Evacuated-tube solar collectors consist of rows of parallel tubes sealed at both ends and placed in a metal frame. The space between the tube and the frame is evacuated (or nearly so), creating excellent insulation. A black coating on the inner surface of the glass tubes absorbs the solar radiation passing through the pipes. This heats the fluid inside the tubes, which then heats the water.
Thermosiphon solar water-heating systems
Thermosiphon solar water-heating systems use simple gravity and natural convection to circulate water or heat transfer fluid between the collector and the tank. In a thermosiphon system, the collector is located above the storage tank so that water naturally circulates as it is heated. No pumps are required.
Things To Know About Solar Energy Systems
Integrating solar power systems into the electric grid can present some technical challenges. For example, because the sun only shines during the day, solar power systems do not produce electricity when there's no sun, especially at night.
And because solar generating capacity can fluctuate throughout the day as clouds move across the sky, solar power can be a less predictable source of electricity than other generation sources such as coal or natural gas.
Several technological advances are also helping to make solar power a more reliable and predictable source of electricity. For example, new inverters can automatically disconnect from the grid when there is a problem and reconnect after its solution. This helps to prevent damage to equipment and improves system stability.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have experienced a dramatic decrease in price over the past decade, mainly due to technological advances and manufacturing scale increases. However, the "soft costs" associated with solar PV systems - such as permits, customer acquisition, and system installation - have not decreased at the same rate. These soft costs currently account for approximately 64% of the total price of a residential solar PV system.
The solar industry comprises various companies involved in developing, financing, manufacturing, installing, and selling solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The industry has undergone rapid growth in recent years, driven by technological advances, decreases in the cost of PV systems, and increasing interest in solar power as a clean and renewable energy source.
Third-party contractors install solar PV systems for utilities, businesses, or homeowners. In some cases, consumers may purchase PV systems outright, while in other cases, they may lease the systems or enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar developer. Several financing options are also available to help make solar technology more affordable.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. They are also called photovoltaic (PV) cells. Solar panels consist of many PV cells, which are connected to form a panel. When sunlight hits a PV cell, it causes electrons to flow out of the photovoltaic cell and into an electrical circuit. This process is called the photovoltaic effect. The electrons flow through the circuit, producing electricity.
A solar panel typically contains two layers of silicon. The bottom layer has a negative charge, and the top layer has a positive charge. When sunlight hits the silicon, it creates an electric field between the two layers. This field causes electrons to flow from the negative layer to the positive layer. The flow of electrons creates an electric current, which can be used to power electrical devices.
Types Of Solar Panels
Solar panels come in various designs, each with its benefits. Here are some of the most popular types of solar panels:
Monocrystalline solar panels
These solar panels constitute a single silicon crystal and are the most efficient type of solar panel. They have a higher price tag but will generate more electricity over their lifetime. The main downside of monocrystalline panels is that they require more space than other solar panels.
Polycrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar panels comprise multiple silicon crystals and are less efficient than monocrystalline panels. However, they are also less expensive and take up less space. The panel's efficiency will decrease as the temperature rises, making them less ideal for hot climates.
Thin-film solar panels
Thin-film solar panels are made from a very thin layer of semiconductor material. They are the least efficient type of solar panel but also the most flexible, making them ideal for use on curved surfaces. One thing to remember with thin-film panels is that they can be damaged more quickly than other solar panels.
Hybrid solar panels
Hybrid solar panels are a combination of two or more different types of solar panels. This allows them to take advantage of each type of panel's strengths while mitigating the weaknesses. For example, a hybrid panel might have a monocrystalline panel combined with a thin-film panel to increase efficiency while still flexing and conforming to different shapes.
Grid-tied solar panels
Grid-tied solar panels are connected to the electrical grid, allowing you to sell any excess electricity you generate back to the power company. This type of system is ideal if you live in an area with a lot of sun and want to offset your power bill.
Off-grid solar panels
Off-grid solar panels are not connected to the electrical grid and instead generate their electricity. This type of solar panel is ideal if you live in a remote area or want to sever your ties to the power company completely. Keep in mind that off-grid systems require batteries to store excess solar energy, which can add to the overall cost.
Positive Impacts Of Solar Energy
Provides clean, renewable power
Solar panels don't produce air pollution or greenhouse gases, making them a safe and environmentally friendly way to generate electricity. About one pound of carbon dioxide is avoided for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced by solar panels.
Solar energy can also help conserve water. Traditional power plants require large amounts of water for cooling, but solar panels don't need any water to operate. This can be a significant advantage in dry or desert climates where water is scarce.
The solar energy industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy. It employs more than 10,000 people in Australia and is likely to grow by 50% over the next five years. This growth provides opportunities for people with a wide range of skills, from engineers to electricians.
Reduces dependence on fossil fuels
Solar power reduces dependence on fossil fuels like coal and oil. Australia currently gets about 80% of its electricity from coal, which is changing as more solar farms emerge. By using more solar energy, we can reduce our reliance on these non-renewable energy resources.
Lowers electricity bills
Solar panels save money on electricity bills. Australia is one of the countries with the highest electricity prices in the world, so solar can make a big difference. Solar panels can provide up to 75% of your household's power needs, leading to significant savings.
Improves air quality
Solar panels also help improve air quality. By generating electricity without emitting pollutants, solar reduces the amount of smog and other harmful emissions in the atmosphere. This can lead to cleaner air and healthier communities.
Source of energy security
Solar power provides energy security for Australia. Solar farms can provide power during times of emergency or when other electricity sources are unavailable. Solar energy is also less vulnerable to disruptions like blackouts or fuel shortages.
It's becoming more affordable
The cost of solar panels has depreciated by more than 70% over the last decade, making it more affordable than ever. With government rebates and incentives, solar is an excellent option for Australians looking to save money on their energy bills. You can install a typical 5kW solar system for as little as $3,500.
Clean And Renewable Energy In Australia
Solar energy is a renewable resource that Australia harnesses to create jobs, save water, lower electricity bills, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and improve air quality. Solar panels are becoming more affordable and provide many benefits for households and businesses. With government rebates and incentives, now is a great time to employ a solar expert to switch to solar.