Facts About Solar Energy
FACTS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY (Solar Photovoltaics)
Article by http://www.ecofreak.co.uk
If you want to know more about solar energy and how it is best applied within the UK, this article is intended to give you a few of the basic facts to help you on your way.
The energy radiated from the sun should not be under estimated; despite our perceptions of a rain drenched and clouded isle, we actually receive about 60% of the amount of solar energy that is received on the equator. In the UK alone this is the equivalent to the output of approximately 1,000 power stations.
On a global scale, the amount of energy that falls on the earth from the sun in just one hour is equal to the amount used by the world’s population in a whole year.
The fact that we are being bombarded by this free and abundant energy source is of little or no use unless we can capture it.
There are two main ways of collecting solar energy:
Solar Photovoltaics (solar PV)
Solar Thermal (or Solar Hot Water)
Solar PV is the process of converting light to electrical power. Solar Thermal uses the suns energy to heat water for hot water or heating purposes. For the purposes of this article we will concentrate on solar PV.
There are many applications for solar PV ranging from solar powered calculators through to fully integrated systems supplying electricity to the grid. Without the application of solar power, remote technologies such as satellites simply would not be feasible and for these types of application the use of solar cells is accepted as the norm. However, mainstream use of solar panels at a domestic and commercial scale is still not widely apparent in the UK.
Sunnier regions of the world are switching on to the opportunities, and large solar PV arrays are now installed in areas such as Spain and California. There are two main reasons for the slow uptake. The first is that solar power is a relatively weak concentration of energy compared to the fossil fuel bonanza that we are all used to and the second is cost.
The lower concentration of power compared to fossil fuels requires a change in mindset of the end user; energy efficiency must go hand in hand with renewable energy. As the use of renewable energy becomes more prevalent, so too hopefully will our awareness of wasted energy and the need for greater energy efficiency.
The cost of solar cells is becoming progressively less of a barrier as the technology is more widely applied. Indeed some predict that the cost of solar power will be cheap enough to compete with fossil fuel generated electricity within five years. The flexibility (quite literally in some cases) of the new solar cells being developed also means that installation is easier and cheaper and that the technology can be adapted to fit virtually any building.
Payback time at current values is still not great for solar PV and as a result the technology is best suited to remote applications where grid connection is likely to be expensive or impossible. Remote applications rely on the storage of collected energy in batteries and can range from a single electric light bulb in a garden shed through to much larger systems for residential properties, farm buildings, communications facilities etc.
Solar panels can also be very effectively used for charging 12 volt battery systems on boats, barges, caravans and recreational vehicles which may be subject to energy drain. Solar PV offers an affordable, dependable and practical way of keeping 12 volt batteries topped up and ready for use without the need for a diesel generator or mains electricity connection.
As the cost of solar comes down there is growing interest in systems for domestic use and some householders are investing in them because of the environmental benefits that they offer. Larger systems for domestic or commercial use tend to be ‘grid tied’ and are able to import and export electricity to the grid according to power supply and demand.
Whatever your take on global warming and the need for renewable energy, interest is certainly growing in solar power and it is likely only to be a matter of time before it becomes a common sight on domestic and commercial properties within the UK.
More information about solar PV can be found at www.ecofreak.co.uk
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