The use of solar energy has experienced a surge in popularity within the nation as people look to transition into more green and renewable energy sources. You can see this increase continuing to expand, from the many giant-sized solar farms to the residential homes powered by a single panel or many panels covering their rooftops.
Texas ranks fifth for most solar-powered energy usage in the country. If you’re curious about solar power and how it works, explore the fundamentals of the solar energy process.
What Is Solar Energy?
In simple terms, solar energy refers to the energy captured from sunlight and then converted into power to generate electricity. Advancements in solar-based technology have increased exponentially in the modern era due to the innovations of scientists, environmentalists, and engineers. According to a 2020 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar energy is the fastest-growing renewable energy source globally.
How Is Solar Energy Collected?
Using photovoltaic solar panels is one of the most common ways to collect solar energy. These panels have silicon-based components attached to them called solar cells, which act as semiconductors to convert electronics from sunlight into electricity.
The solar panels work similarly to batteries. Both positive and negative layers produce an electric blanket, and when you attach a conductor to both of these layers of the solar panel, you get circuits of electricity.
Can This Energy Power My Home?
Technically, yes, but the process by which solar energy can power homes can be a little challenging. When solar panels collect energy, the panels aren’t immediately turning this energy into electricity that you can use for your house.
The initial energy that the panels generate is direct current energy (DC). Direct current energy on its own cannot power your home or electric appliances. To do so, the energy has to travel through solar inverters. These devices convert the DC energy into alternating current energy (AC).
Most appliances found in a home use AC energy to operate. Together, these coordinated steps describe the photovoltaic effect process. This explanation illustrates how sunlight energy conversion works to provide electricity to the place you call home.
How Do Home Solar Panels Work With the Grid System?
To understand more about home solar panel installation, you need to know how solar panels affect your designated electricity grid. Homes that connect to the electricity grid use utility meters. Your house should have a Smart Meter, which was likely installed before you moved into the home. The meter functions by monitoring the energy consumption in your house, including the amount of energy your home’s solar panels generate.
You can send any surplus energy back to your area grid to make an exchange for credit if you consume less energy than your solar panels generate. Weather conditions can factor into how much credit you gain. For example, on a mostly cloudy day, your solar panels will likely produce less energy. Therefore, you can draw additional power from your local power grid to accommodate your home’s power needs.
What Are the Benefits of Using Solar Energy?
The primary benefit of using solar power is that it offers clean energy. Clean energy refers to any energy or power source that doesn’t permit pollutants to get released into the atmosphere. An example of these contaminants would be greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, both of which can have harmful effects on the earth’s atmosphere.
Another benefit of solar panels is that they are minimalist and nonintrusive. When you install them on the rooftop of your home, they don’t negatively impact your local ecosystem or wildlife.
Overall, a homeowner can often benefit from lower utility costs as well.
What Are the Limitations of Using Solar Energy?
While using solar energy has many benefits, it’s important to understand its limitations too. The most prominent limitation is that solar energy requires sunlight to collect sufficient amounts of solar power. On a cloudy day without much sunlight, you may not be able to gather enough solar energy needed for powering your home.
There’s also a reasonably substantial cost to installing solar panels. The national average price for installing solar panels on a residential home can be between $15,000 to $21,000. This expense may not be one that someone can afford as an upfront cost.
Is Solar Energy for Me?
The answer to this question will ultimately depend on your needs, budget, and desire to transition into more green energy resources. However, you can make solar power a functional part of your home in several ways. Those who can afford the upfront fees and live in a home that can use solar panels may want to consider using solar energy.
Unfortunately, solar energy may not be a viable option for residents who rent, live in areas with substantial shade cover, or don’t have the budget to buy and install their solar panels.
Because of high solar installation costs, community solar projects have seen a rise in popularity in the nation. These community-based projects are local solar plants where several households share the generated solar energy. The use of these shared projects allows homeowners to benefit both environmentally and financially from using solar energy without the high upfront costs of buying the panels.
You might also consider signing up for a green energy plan. This plan isn’t exclusive to solar energy, but these green energy plans leave a lower environmental footprint. The Texas deregulated energy market provides various electricity providers with renewable and green energy plans that you can consider for your needs.
The world has become more conscious of the global warming crisis. In turn, you can expect to see the use of solar energy continue to rise. As we discover new ways to harness solar energy and make it more affordable, the proliferation and widespread use of this power source can reshape how we use energy and how electricity providers operate within the energy market. You’ll ultimately need to weigh the pros and cons to decide if solar energy is right for your home and lifestyle.