Solar power, simply put, is the act of harnessing radiated energy from the Sun and putting it to good use.
The energy from the Sun is provided in several wavelengths, the one most people know and understand is visible light, but there are other wavelengths of energy emitted by the Sun which can also be used to produce power. Below we detail to two most common ways we harness Solar Power
1) Photovoltaic (PV) Power from the Sun
This is where what are commonly called solar cells are used to convert the photons in visible light into electrical energy. This electricity on its own is usually in a voltage range that is not immediately useful in residential context, so it has to go through a device called an Inverter to increase the voltage to allow it to run household devices.
Although in order to run household devices, there is a trade off in usable power, namely when you 'up' the voltage you in turn decrease the current and hence the effective power that can delivered. This is why you will often see multiple solar panels used to provide sufficient working power. Also each solar panel will have a rated Wattage of power per hour (i.e. 300w) so after conversion via the Inverter you will have the power of all the solar panels summed available to you.
Note: there will be some loss of power through the Inverter, but this will be the order of 2 to 3% typically, so its small enough not to be an immediate concern.
A growing trend now is to have a mini Inverter per solar panel, this has several benefits:
- You no longer have a single Inverter as a point of failure in your system;
- You can use lower ampage cabling to string the solar panels together, which reduces installation costs;
- It's easy to add on more solar panels later on, as you do not have to upgrade your Inverter to do so.
Your Solar Panels are as only as good as their solar access
Something often overlooked when installing solar panels is that in order to work they need direct access to the Sun. Shading on a solar panel drastically reduces the power it produces, see this article
for this and other factors you need to keep in mind.
2) UV Power from the Sun
This is where UV solar energy
from the Sun is used to providing heating. Most often this is done to provide solar hot water
heating, either directly to the water to be used, or by a form of closed loop heating system. This can be a very efficient way of using Solar Power in a residential context as the water will retain its heat well into the evening. Please refer to this article
for more details.