Everyone is looking for a cleaner way to produce energy. Solar electric systems are, arguably, the cleanest form of energy production available. However, not everyone understands how the sun’s light is captured and turned into energy.
What is Solar Power?
In general terms, it is the conversion of sunlight into electricity using photovoltaics. The photovoltaic modules are simple and durable. There are no moving parts.
The photovoltaic array sits in sunlight, acting as an energy collector and generator. When the light hits the panels, the cells absorb some of the photons. The energy is transferred to an electron located within the semiconductor material. With the photons, the electron can escape its position within the semiconductor and become part of the electrical current.
What Is A Solar Electric System Made From?
Most photovoltaic cells are made from one of two basic designs: thin-film or crystalline silicon. Thin-film actually covers several different designs, including amorphous silicon, copper indium gallium diselenide, and cadmium telluride.
Crystalline silicon modules are fashioned into either multicrystalline ribbon, or monocrystalline silicone. They are also used in more than 80 percent of the current marketplace. However, the thin-film design is the most common in research and development.
In addition to the photovoltaic cells, you will also need other components to make up the array. This includes batteries, charge controllers, and inverters. These components vary depending on what type of system is in use.
What Types of Systems Are Out There?
When choosing a solar electric setup for your home, you have four main designs from which to choose. The first type is the PV-Direct system. This is the simplest design available. The PV-Direct has the fewest components: only the array and the load. There are no batteries, and it does not hook directly to the utility. This array only powers loads when the sun is shining, so it is only appropriate for applications such as water pumping and ventilation.
Off-grid systems are great for remote locations without utility service. However, you can use this power array just about anywhere. The design allows you to operate all your household’s electrical needs without having to be connected to the city grid. This array is a little more complicated. It must have a battery bank to store the electricity for nighttime and cloudy day use. The bank must also have a charge controller to protect it from overcharge and an inverter to convert the DC power to AC for use with AC household appliances. Users should also have disconnects, monitoring equipment, and electrical safety gear.
Grid-tied systems with battery backups are very similar to off-grid setups. However, the home or business is still connected to the city’s utility grid, reducing the dependence on the panels to provide all the energy. This setup still needs a battery bank, converters, and safety equipment.
Batteryless grid-tied systems are the most common on-grid solar electric array. These setups consist of a simple setup with a photovoltaic array, inverters, and electrical safety equipment. Most of the energy consumed during the day will come from the sunlight; however, with no battery backup, the grid-tie array will not work if the utility grid fails.