The sun is more than a bright star that you can easily see on a daily basis. It can actually be a great source of energy to generate electricity that can help you have cheaper electricity bills and an abundant supply of power. However, not many people are familiar with solar energy and its great potential. Unravel about its intricacies, here in Solar Works!
A brief history of solar energy
Bell Labs developed the first silicon photovoltaic cell in 1954. Even if solar energy was used and converted into usable energy in different ways before this event, it was only after 1954 did it become a viable source of electricity to power devices for long durations. The first solar cells that converted solar radiation to electricity only had an efficiency of up to 4%. But as time passed, it increased and went above 20% already which is a number that is continuously on the rise.
The adoption of solar energy was slow at first but eventually, a number of state and federal incentives and policies contributed to the decrease in the cost of solar panels. As a result, several enterprises became more accepting of the use of solar energy for both residential and commercial purposes.
How does solar energy work?
Little did many people know that the amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year. This is when solar technologies play a huge role in making use of this fact. It converts sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic (PV) panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. The said energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage.
The basics about solar energy
Solar radiation is the light that is emitted by the sun. Although every place on Earth receives some sunlight over a year, the amount of solar radiation that reaches a specific spot varies from each one. With the use of solar technologies, they capture this radiation and turn it into useful forms of energy. The two main types under this are namely:
Photovoltaics (PV) is what is used in solar panels. When the sun shines onto its surface, the energy from it is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. As a result, this energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electric field in the cell causing electricity to flow.
Concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP)
Compared to PV that uses panels, the concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) utilizes mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. This aforementioned energy can produce electricity or could be stored for later use. CSP mirrors are usually applied in large power plants.
About systems integration
After the electricity generation by PV or CSP systems, solar energy is then integrated into homes, businesses and existing electrical grids with varying mixtures of traditional and other renewable energy sources.
Solar energy as a renewable source
Compared to other technologies, solar energy is a clean, affordable and renewable source of power. It can be harnessed from any part of the world as long as sunlight hits the potential location. Since solar energy comes from the sun, it shows a limitless amount of power. Like other renewable energy technologies, solar energy can generate electricity from resources that are infinite. Although most countries like Nigeria use fossil fuels like oil and gas as a source of energy, solar power is making waves into the nation and gaining penetration in the market.
Why go solar?
Using solar energy comes with lots of benefits such as:
- Reducing electricity costs
- Contributing to a resilient electrical grid
- Creating jobs that can spur economic growth
- Generating backup power for nighttime and possible outages when paired with storage
- Operating at similar efficiency on both small and large scales
To know more about the different pros and cons of solar energy, go to the website of Solar Works with our detailed explanation about this.
What are its uses?
Aside from being a source of all life on Earth, the energy from the sun is useful in many different ways. It creates two types of energy which is light and heat that you can use for various purposes. Here are the seven most common uses of solar energy:
The most common and popular application of solar energy is solar electricity. It has gained momentum in the market in recent years as it captures the attention of many people. Compared to the past, solar electricity has become more accessible as it is now cheaper and more people are aware of its great benefits. In many parts of the world, people install solar PV systems through solar panels on the rooftop of their homes or businesses. Aside from the main solar panels, there is also a solar battery you can connect to your solar power system to allow you to use the energy even when the sun goes down.
Solar water heating
Solar energy is not only for electricity but also for water heating systems. It can create hot water for the showers in your homes. Installing solar water heaters on your rooftop absorbs the heat of the sun and transfers it into your water tank. Some people even use this solar heater for their swimming pools which is known to be a cost-effective use of solar energy, fitting for different climates.
The common uses of solar space heating systems are powering radiant floors or pairing with a Forced Hot Air (FHA) system to heat a home. It is often utilized to heat homes and different business buildings during cold seasons.
Solar energy can not only be used to heat homes but also ventilate them. Some of the technologies under this are solar attic fans that reduce the burden of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), especially in hot climates. This is a good option if you don’t have a solar PV system in your home that can offset your home’s entire electricity use.
You can use solar lighting in multiple ways like for your landscaping at home or security lights on the street. They are affordable and readily available whenever you need them with a plethora of designs available.
An amazing advantage of solar energy is you can have it with you at all times now. There are some solutions that allow you to have portable solar PV chargers wherever you plan to go. It is highly beneficial for those who want to keep their phones and tablets in full charge for the entire day. Believe it or not, this has already been used since the 1970s through watches. However, presently, more manufacturers are integrating them into phones. Some researchers in Japan even developed lightweight and water-resistant solar cells that can be sewn onto clothing to power up your devices.
Although solar energy is still not widely used, there are continuous efforts to apply this in everyday life like the transportation system. Many automakers planned to create solar-powered vehicles that can now be seen in buses, trains, aeroplanes and race cars inspired by the creation of students from Australia and the United States of America. Some of its benefits include:
- Lower maintenance costs
- Cheaper fuel costs
- Less environmental footprint compared to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles
Here are some examples of solar transportation being used in different parts of the world:
- A solar-powered aircraft called the Solar Impulse 2 has made its way around the world, flying across the Pacific.
- China often uses solar buses to reduce their carbon footprint and provide efficient transportation choices for populated cities like Beijing.
- For cars, the SolarSpirit from Australia sparked attention when it was used in a car racing competition.
Did you know?: Bonus facts about solar energy
For a brighter future, solar energy is needed in our everyday lives. It can significantly improve the quality of our resources and at the same time is an abundant power source that doesn’t run out. Aside from being a power source for electricity, you can also use it on a daily basis through different devices such as:
- Cell phones
- Music speakers
- Solar air conditioning
- Solar dryers
- Solar visor radios
- Rechargeable flashlights
Choose Solar Works, save more money
Through the ‘Solar Works, Save Money’ campaign, we want you to see the significance of using solar energy especially for various enterprises in Nigeria. With its enormous potential, it can help improve the overall state of our economy and pave the way for better renewable energy sources. To invest in this project, contact Solar Works through our website. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us whenever you want. Let’s walk hand in hand in creating a better future for our country!