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Solar Power

Solar power is one of the most well-known green energies currently available. It involves taking energy from the sun, via either heat or light, and turning it into usable electricity. Anywhere you look, you can see an article making some point or another about solar panels and solar installations for homes. 

With the increase in data and science to back up solar panels, people are starting to pull out their calculators to see how a solar installation can help them with their utility bills in the long run. While solar installations are expensive, they don’t only benefit people trying to reduce their power bills.

Solar can also benefit the environment and be better than greenhouse gases, coal, and fossil fuels. While the process of collecting solar power is relatively green, the storage of solar power so that it can be used at any time is a lot harder.

Currently, it involves using lithium batteries, which aren’t very clean to produce.

While the light itself is beneficial, the process of converting and storing this solar energy source for the constant demand for energy consumption we have across the world isn’t easy, and we still need to rely on research and provide incentives for those researching a better place and more ways to store this power. 

However, with constantly-growing research, scientists hope to find new methods of storage and more efficient solar panels. Businesses are now moving quickly to put their logo on new discoveries and unique panels. 

How Solar is Used

Most often, solar energy is used to heat water heaters and even heating and cooling houses. However, thanks to more affordable residential solar panels, people can also use solar energy to power parts of their homes, RVs, and vans.

Solar technology relies on a renewable source of energy, namely, the sun. Solar panels are most often used for residential homes in the U.S. and are growing more common with the addition of a larger number of non-traditional homes.

For example, many people are choosing to live in vans now. Solar panels can be installed on the roof of a van, and can be set up to power a battery cell for constant power. 

Thanks to more and more science done with solar panels, energy technologies are constantly growing. It is easier for those with high energy consumption to bring solar panels with them to power their utilities, rather than using wind arrays and wind power for their energy source.

It takes less space, and there is a type of solar panel available for everyone. 

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Solar Technologies

Photovoltaics Basics

Solar cells are also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells. Its name comes from how it converts solar energy into electricity. It takes the photons, or light from the sun, and turns them into voltage, or electricity, hence the name. 

There are a few kinds of solar cells on the market:

  • Silicon Cells – Most solar cells today are made from silicon, which allows for a decent balance of efficiency and cost. These are used both for residential purposes and utility purposes. 
  • Thin-Film Solar Cells  These cells are more expensive but are also much more efficient. They are used when solar is the only option, such as satellites and unmanned vehicles. 
  • Next-Generation Solar Cells – These are cells currently under research to be more environmentally friendly, such as making them from organic materials that are cheaper and easier to manufacture. 

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Basics

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power (CSP) is another way to collect energy from the sun. It is technically a mix of solar energy and thermal energy. It uses mirrors to concentrate the light from the sun and focus it onto a receiver. 

The receiver usually contains water. The focus of the sunlight on the receiver then warms the water that is inside. The heat creates steam which then spins a turbine, and generates electricity. 

These methods are often used in industrial applications. Some examples of where CSP is used are:

  • Oil recovery
  • Food processing
  • Mineral processing
  • And more

Systems Integration Basics

Solar integrations are full of developing technologies to help keep the solar electrical grid reliable, secure, and efficient. It is essentially the process of setting up old electrical grids so that they can handle the new integration of solar panels and solar power. 

This doesn’t just cover the physical processes of switching over the electricity. However, there is also a lot of cost-effective planning, prediction of solar resources, and research involved as well. 

Soft Costs

Soft costs are considered the costs of going solar that don’t have to do with the hardware. This means it includes things like:

  • Sales Tax
  • Installation
  • Supply Chain
  • Overhead
  • Permits
  • Inspections
  • Sales
  • Marketing

These are often also what cause the roadblocks to solar becoming more widespread. While hardware costs can go down. However, the soft costs can increase, or change based on experience, location, time of year, and more. 

The Solar Market Today

The solar market today is constantly and heavily fluctuating. This is because although demand for solar is increasing on a personal and local level, there are still a lot of issues with things like supply and demand, weather, and trade disruptions that can cause the market to drop or prices to surge. 

However, demand and usage are still increasing, despite these issues. By 2027, usage is expected to grow to 40%. 

In 2018, the solar market was considered to be valued at $52.5 billion and is now projected to reach $223.3 billion by 2026. 

FAQ

What are the benefits of solar power?

There are many advantages to solar power. To name a few:

– Reduced dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil
– Renewable and clean power
– Pollution free and no greenhouse gasses
– Return on your investment
– New advancements are being made every day, including life span and rate of power growth
– Little to no maintenance is required
– Creates a variety of jobs, capital, businesses, and increases options in markets
– Excess power can be sent back to the grid, allowing users to get money
– Can be installed anywhere there is sun, including rooftops and any flat surface
– Solar power can be used in place of traditional electricity
– Can use batteries to store power for overnight use
– Safe compared to traditional electricity and power
– Can easily be put on a house
– Has a fairly long history, in some forms
– Solar power can be used in pretty much all countries throughout the world

What are the drawbacks of solar power?

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to solar power as well, as no system is perfect. Here are some of the major drawbacks of residential and utility solar panels regarding solar energy. 

– High initial costs for materials and installations
– Depends solely on rays of sun at the current moment, unless an expensive battery is purchased to hold this novel form of electricity
– There aren’t currently a lot of experienced installers that can answer questions, provide information, and provide examples of solar uses
– Solar panels aren’t very aesthetically pleasing
– Efficiency isn’t super high, so a lot of solar panels are needed at the moment
– Large battery banks are needed for nighttime and non-sunny days
– Additional machinery is needed to convert solar power to traditional wall power (DC to AC, or alternating current), which is more expensive
– Power isn’t stable, so some days and times of the year don’t produce as much power
– While the units are long-lasting, they do not last a lifetime and new solar panels and batteries have to be purchased occasionally. 
– Depending on your area and climate, solar panels are not a viable project. 

What are the best locations for solar power?

There are a few factors that influence how much solar power you can get from a solar panel. 
– Latitude
– Cloud cover
– Aerosols
– Elevation
– Shading

As you can imagine, places closest to the equator produce the best solar power. The best place in the world for the solar panel is the Atacama Desert in Chile, as it gets the best of the five factors above. 

However, any place that has little cloud cover usually has a higher elevation and gets a lot of sun. While you can use solar panels anywhere, using them in areas with a lot of cloud cover, or a short amount of sunlight may not provide much power.

This makes it hard in some areas, as power plants provide a lot more stability and capacity for home owners and in every state. 

What are the challenges of solar power?

The greatest challenge at the moment is market uncertainty. There isn’t a lot of consistency with the market and demand. Additionally, the support the government provides varies, changes, and fluctuates, creating a lot of struggle between supply and demand. 

Right now, to get solar panels and solar energy up and running, government subsidies are needed, and the desire to add to these government subsidies is changing all the time, causing issues. This means a lot of the challenges with solar right now is politicization.

As different government parties compete back and forth, any incentive and credit bonus can be taken away or withdrawn, and that instability causes a lot of problems for consumers and growth. 

What is the future of solar power?

Solar panels are expected to grow. By 2050, it is expected that 45% of the electricity in the United States will be powered by solar. This is in part due to large incentives by government agencies at both the commercial and the residential level. 

Research about solar panels is constantly growing. Not only is there research happening at the moment to make solar panels more attractive, but they are also working to make solar panels more efficient and with cheaper materials.

Additionally, how solar panels benefit the environment in the long-term is also important research that must be figured out

What are the types of solar power?

There are two main types of solar power, photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). These involve creating electricity via solar heat and solar light. They have benefits and are both a lot cleaner than coal on a big scale. 

What are the applications of solar power?

Solar power can be applied anywhere traditional electricity can. Without an inverter to convert DC to AC power, you can use solar power for any DC power needed. Additionally, you can use solar energy to heat up water, provide lighting, transportation like cars, and solar ventilation. 

What are the challenges of solar power development?

The main challenge of solar power development is getting the support from the government that is needed to fund research and increase awareness. Stability is also an issue, as, without a large battery bank that currently isn’t very sustainable, there is no way to use solar power at night or on cloudy days, as the solar radiation that the sun sends down to earth is what provides the ability for electricity generation. 

Policies need to be put into place so that more solar projects can be started, and increase the data in the industry. People have basic rights, and the adoption of subsidies and solar power can help give people those basic rights.