What are solar panels?
Solar panels are devices used to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity (or heat) to power household appliances. There are four major types of solar panels.
What are the different types of solar panels?
A wide range of solar panels are available to the market, and the most common solar panels are Concentrated PV Cell, Thin-Film Solar Panels, Monocrystalline Solar Panels, and Polycrystalline Solar Panels.
Concentrated PV Cells (CVP) are used for high-performance and efficiency. They require additional technology like a solar tracker and cooling system for top performance.
Thin-Film Solar Panels are categorised into four groups determinate upon the photovoltaic material deposited onto the substrate panel. These four groups include Amorphous silicon (a-Si), Cadmium telluride (CdTe), Copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS), and Organic photovoltaic cells (OPC). Each category has its advantages and disadvantages, and they are not very common in residential structures.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI) (or single-crystalline silicon) are the most expensive solar panel type, but they are highly efficient with a long shelf-life because they are designed from the highest-grade silicon. They also require the least amount of space and produce up to four times more energy than Thin-Film panels.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels (p-Si) are cost-effective and available for a low price. Technically, p-Si performs worse in higher temperatures than Mono-SI, but it does not have a direct effect on homeowners. Mono- and Polycrystalline Solar Panels are the most common for residential structures.source
How do solar panel systems work?
Protons are tiny particles of energy generated by the Sun. The protons are transported millions of miles to Earth where they come in contact with a solar cell; a section of the solar panel. Upon impact, the protons knock lose their electrons. The process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage) is called the photovoltaic effect. Electricity is generated when the electrons pass through the conductor. Solar panels convert the energy to a DC current, which then flows to an inverter. The inverter converts the electricity from DC to AC current, which is then used to power a home. Depending on the utility setup, excess energy is transferred to the grid or other residences.Source | Source
What are the different types of solar power systems?
Solar power systems come in three types: On-Grid, Off-Grid, and a Hybrid solar power system.source
How much is the lifespan of a solar power system?
As a general rule, solar panels and a power system lifespan is around twenty-five years. At twenty-five years, energy production will not cease; rather, manufacturers predict that on the twenty-fifth year, a solar panel system will accumulate enough damage or weather wear & tear to be considered replaceable.
According to a 2012 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panel systems deteriorate with an output of 0.8 percent a year; also it depends on the manufacturing brand. It is important for a homeowner to be aware of the solar panel degradation rate, and again, it will not have a significant impact on a solar power system until twenty-five years established.source
How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?
A solar photovoltaic (PV) panel is comprised of multiple solar cells, and the cell mechanisms convert sunlight into energy. Each cell is manufactured out of semiconductor materials, because silicon is conductive, in order to created an electric field between two sides; positive on one side and negative on the other.
When light energy hits a solar panel, electrons are knocked loose to the material, and by way of an electrical conductor, create an electrical circuit that captures the electrical current suitable for home appliances. Overall, PV panels work in three basic steps:
What's the difference between PV and other solar energy technologies?
There are three common solar energy technologies on the market: Concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, Solar Thermal water heating systems, and Photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Concentrating solar power (CSP) systems use large mirrors concentrating sunlight towards a central, small point. The CSP method is commonly used for large-scale power plant generation.
Solar Thermal water heating systems is a process converting solar energy into heating for domestic water purposes. Solar water heating is commonly used for warm washing in the home, radiant floor heating, or to heat swimming pools. They are primarily used to heat water. Where heating water is the most common, solar water heating can produce energy by heating oil or air to run an energy producer like an engine or turbine.
Photovoltaic (PV) systems are very common and comprised of a solar panel array, inverter, and other electrical hardware. They directly convert sunlight into electricity by means of PV cells built from semiconductor materials. PV systems are better than other systems because they last longer, cover a wider range of household electricity needs, generate power even in winter, and are more versatile.Source
What is solar water heating?
Solar water heating uses solar energy to heat domestic water for homeowner daily washing and cleaning. A solar panel system collects heat from the sun and channels the energy for warm water heating in a hot water cylinder. Two types of solar water heating panels are used: Evacuated tubes and Flat plate collectors.source
How does a heat pump work?
A heat pump is not depended on solar sunshine, rather the heat is absorbed from ambient air. It is used to heat household water. Heat pumps do work in cold temperatures, and in sunny Australia where temperatures are relatively high, a heat pump can be an efficient method to reducing energy consumption from heating water. A heat pump emits no greenhouse gases and requires little maintenance.source
What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?
Solar energy benefits the environment by slowing climate change and reducing a household’s carbon footprint. Electricity generation from solar panels produces no greenhouse gases. By using solar energy and not grid electricity, a homeowner can reduce their personal carbon footprint.
Traditional energy generation requires a lot of water. Solar does not waste water to cool a power system like other power methods. Solar reduces the impact on water consumption; a precious resource in Australia.
Which is better? Solar or wind power?
Two common renewable power sources are solar and wind power. Both use plentiful and clean resources, solar and wind, available to Australia. Overall, solar energy is better and more efficient than wind energy. Main disadvantages to wind energy include, production takes place only when the wind is blowing, many moving parts with high maintenance costs, the structure needs large operating space, and they are not always versatile for residential areas.source
Does solar cause pollution?
Solar panels and solar panel systems do not produce air pollution, water pollution, or greenhouse gases. They are considered a renewable and clean energy source. During the manufacturing of PV panels, some toxic materials and chemicals exist in their creation and can cause pollution, if they are not disposed of properly and maintained. The Australian government heavily regulates the disposal of these types of materials.source
Can I go off-grid with solar panels?
Yes, a homeowner can go off-grid with solar panels. To be off-grid, a homeowner will need to disconnect from their utility company and install a solar battery. A solar battery is a battery or a device that holds electrical energy, charged by the solar panel system. The battery provides electricity during dark hours (or times of reduced light) and time of excess energy use. Solar batteries are the primary solution to go off-grid with solar panels.source
What happens if my panels produce more electricity than I use?
In Australia’s sunny environment, a homeowner likely will run into the possibility of over electricity production from solar. In this case, they will likely receive net metering credits from a utility company. Net metering is the process of billing credits for the additional energy a homeowner produces and provides to the grid system. If the homeowner is on an off-grid setup with a solar battery, excess energy produced is stored in the battery for non-sunlite hours.source
How much sun do I need to make having a solar power system worthwhile?
In the sunny country of Australia, finding enough solar energy to power a solar system will not be a struggle. In general, having at least four hours of peak sunlight exposure makes a solar power system worthwhile. Peak sunlight hours are when the sun is highest in the sky. Four hours is average amount of peak sun hours. Australian peak sunlight varies depending on the time of year and location; however, peak rates generally are as low as 1.7 and as high as 8.2 in select Australian cities.Source | source
What are the different types of power inverters?
Several types of power inverters are available for Australian homeowners. The inverter selection depends on end power use and connection (or disconnection) from the power grid. If you are tied to the grid, these inverters are commonly called central solar inverters, and they come in two types: Transformer type inverter and Transformer-less type. Off-Grid inverters also come in two types: Pure Sine Waveform Inverters and Modified Sin Waveform inverters.source|source
Do solar panels work in a blackout?
As Australians, we are not immune to the occasional blackout due to maintenance, technical failures, and weather. On a solar net metering system, you will not receive grid electricity due to technical and safety reasons during a blackout at night. Solar batteries are the solution to storing energy for use during a blackout and to stay connect to continuous electricity.source
Should I ask for a solar monitoring system for my solar panels?
A solar monitoring system is an essential hardware component for a solar system. A monitoring system will monitor the solar panel system and send data to a central internet accessed portal for viewing. The portal has information on energy consumption, solar electricity production, grid exports, grid imports, and battery charge and discharge power. These are important data points to monitor because when a system alert occurs, the monitoring system alerts the homeowner promptly for maintenance.source
Do my solar panels produce power when the sun isn’t shining?
Homeowners often wonder about the efficiency of their solar generation at night. In a general sense, the short answer to ‘do solar panels generate power at night’ is no. A solar panel cannot generate electricity for a home with the lack of sunlight, and the solar panel system has no ability to absorb sunlight during night intervals. The solution here is solar storage, which allows a home to generated electricity at night. Net metering and solar battery technology offers a home access to electricity, either through a connection to the power grid or a solar energy storage battery during night intervals.Source
Is solar electricity produced on bright sunny days only?
No, solar electricity can be produced on non-bright sunny days or cloudy days. However, they are usually not as efficient and only generate on average ten to twenty-five percent of their normal power output.Source
Can solar panels produce electricity when it snows?
It might be a surprise - solar panels produce very effective electricity output when it snows and solar energy output can actually improve. Output increases due to solar light reflection from white snow on to solar panels. As long as the panels are well-maintained and clear of snow, the system can expect to perform well.source
What happens to solar panels in hail?
Australia seldom has harsh weather, but a solar panel system is made to withstand heavy storm (and external) elements, including hail, frost, and extremely hot weather. Generally, solar panels are tested and certified to withstand hail sizes up to twenty-five mm at a fall rate of twenty-three meters per second. Remember, poor quality solar panels are subject to more damage.source
What if a solar panel gets struck by lightning?
A solar panel system is likely damaged by a direct or nearby lightning strike due to the high mass of voltage outburst. The likelihood of a lightning strike happening in an Australian state varies on the average ground flash density. If you are considered in a high flash density area, Kalumburu and Darwin are common locations, a surge protector or a lightning rod are two additional hardware pieces for a PV system to prevent against lightning strikes.source
What is net metering?
A net meter is a device that continuously tracks the amount of electricity a household generates or consumers. Net metering is a billing system process that allows solar PV systems to receive credit for over generated solar energy.
As a PV system generates electricity for a residential home, sometimes the system generates more energy than required and used by the homeowner. The excess kilowatts are transferred to the utility grid, and the homeowner is given a credit towards their utility bill.
Net metering works both ways, in that if the homeowner needs additional energy, that energy can be transferred back from the utility grid during dark hours. With the net metering policy, a homeowner will never be in the situation of ‘no electricity’ because it is a continuous energy switch-off between the utility grid and the homeowner’s solar panels.source
What is gross metering?
Gross metering is the second type of solar energy payment (in conjunction with net metering). With gross metering, all solar electricity generated is exported to the power grid at 60c/20c kWh per based on a predetermined feed-in tariff. Meaning in the process, a homeowner is paid for the ‘gross amount of electricity’ their solar panels give to the power grid, and they are then billed for overall household electricity consumption.source
What are solar inverters?
A solar inverter is a bridge device between light collected on the solar panels and the electricity in a homeowner’s home. It is the most important element of the solar power electrical power system because it converts direct current (DC) energy captured by the PV solar panels and switches it to alternating current (AC) needed to power home appliances.source
What are solar batteries?
A solar battery, in its simplest form, is a battery charged by the solar energy generated by a homeowner’s solar panels. A homeowner may choose to install a solar battery as part of their system for several reasons.
There are several major types of solar batteries, and these include Flooded Lead-Acid, Gelled Electrolyte Sealed Lead-Acid, Sealed Absorbed Glass Mat Lead-Acid (AGM), Lithium-ion, and Flow.source
What are digital meters?
A digital meter is the next generation metering system for tracking a homeowner’s energy consumption. The meter tracks a home’s electricity in 30-minute intervals and transfers that data to the utility company every day using a wireless network.source