Solar Photovoltaic Systems, also known as Solar Power, Solar Energy or simply Solar Panels, are a method of generating electricity from the sun’s radiation/light. They are a popular option for domestic households to future-proof their home from rising electricity costs, and offer very high rates of return for businesses who are interested in their triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental).
What is solar energy or solar power?
Solar power is the process where the sun’s energy is converted to electricity. This is known as the photovoltaic effect, and this is the why the industry calls it solar “PV”. The diagram below provides a simple explanation.
Reference: thank you to our partners at Bradford Solar for this diagram.
How does solar energy work?
- Photons (sun light) are absorbed by the solar panel.
- The silicon wafers and the conductors (metal strips) convert the photon into Direct Current (DC) electricity. This DC electricity cannot be used in standard household appliances and therefore need to be converted to Alternating Current (AC).
- The inverter then converts the electricity from DC to AC.
- If you do not use all the electricity produced by the solar system, it will be fed back to the grid ( also known as exported)
- During the night or when not enough electricity is being produced by the solar system, electricity will be drawn from the grid.
What are the types of solar power?
There are three main types of solar energy that are currently in use, including:
- Solar panels (aka solar PV) – whereby solar panels are used to capture the sun’s energy and convert it into home electricity power using an inverter.
- Solar thermal energy – uses lenses and reflectors to concentrate the sun’s power to generate energy, which is then used to heat fluid (usually water or oil), where the steam produced is utilised to drive a turbine.
- Solar Air Heating – commonly used in residential dwellings, the natural solar gain that accumulates in a roofspace is harvested. See www.heg.com.au for further details.
- Solar hot water – uses flat plate solar panel system or an evacuated tube system to utilise the sun’s energy to heat household water.