Most consumers know that solar power is generated by sunlight hitting solar panels, but how much do you really know about how solar energy is created?
Solar panels generate DC power, which is then converted to AC power by a piece of solar equipment called an inverter. The inverter feeds electricity to the building that is connected to the solar power equipment. Depending on the location of the building, the amount of solar panels installed and other factors, a solar power system can generate as much as all of a structure's energy needs.
Thanks to a solar power system, property owners may be able to effectively eliminate their energy bill while helping protect the environment by reducing harmful emissions associated with traditional power plants. Did you know that in one minute, enough energy falls from the sky in the form of sunlight to power the world for one full year? At Sullivan Solar Power, we believe it is time to harness this energy.
Solar Power History
Solar photovoltaic technology is not new in the United States. Silicon-based solar modules were first used commercially by Bell Laboratories in the 1950s. Solar power systems were originally used to bring small amounts of electricity to remote areas where it was not practical to bring in utility lines. Solar panels later were also used to fuel space exploration as the United States entered the space race in the 1960s.
Interestingly, the original silicon-based solar modules had conversion efficiencies of as little as 6 percent. Today’s silicon-based solar panels have efficiencies as high as 22 percent, so they are far more efficient than the original models. So, in just 60 years, solar power efficiencies have increased by an average rate of approximately 2.6 percent each decade. Silicon-solar modules have a theoretical maximum efficiency of 25 to 30 percent. Some of the modules installed in the 60’s and 70’s are still in operation today, so updating to a modern system can dramatically improve your property’s efficiency.
Solar Power Glossary of Terms
Solar power comes from the sun, which burns a fuel called hydrogen in a nuclear fusion reaction. The result is energy that is cast off into space in all directions, including towards Earth.
Here are definitions for some other solar power terms consumers may come across in their research.
- Solar Panels:
- Solar photovoltaic modules, also known as solar panels, consist of tiny individual cells, which convert solar energy into electricity. When the sun’s rays hit the modules, the cells generate a stream of direct current (DC) electricity and send it to an inverter for processing.
- The inverter converts the direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity. Once converted to AC, it can be used to power homes or businesses.
- Electric Meter:
- The electric meter measures the amount of electrical power produced by the solar panel system, measuring it in kilowatt hours.
- Electrical Panel:
- Electricity generated by the solar panel system, along with the electricity provided by the electric utility company “grid,” is routed into the building through the electrical panel.
- Data Acquisition System:
- The electric meter reads electrical generation information from the inverter, usage data from the electrical panel, air temperature readings and other performance data and posts it to the Internet. Users can log in to Sullivan Solar Power’s secure web site and view their property’s energy usage and other data in real time.