Solar panels are large flat, rectangular structures, between the size of a radiator and a door. A protective sheet of glass covers the solar cells (power collectors) which make up a solar panel. A solar cell is usually 8-sided and blue-black in color, about the size of your palm. Similar to the way the cells in a battery are developed to generate power, so these cells are designed to produce electricity. However, they create electricity from sunlight instead of from chemicals. Solar panels are also known as photovoltaic panels (or PV panels), which comes from a combination of the Greek word for light, and electricity pioneer Alessandro Volta. Global power usage figures are remarkable – and surprising. Although the US represents only 5% of the global population, it utilizes over a quarter of the power consumed by the entire planet. Over 200,000 people in Israel will take delivery of their electricity from a 100mw solar energy plant, with plans to take their solar potential further, developing a 500mw plant. Bavaria houses the world’s biggest solar energy system, while Japan uses half of all solar panels manufactured worldwide. Considering these facts, the US has a fairly long way to go to begin making the most of the huge potential of solar energy. In just one hour the sun transfers more power to the crust of the earth than the entire world can use in a year. By designing your home to make the most of the sun’s heat and light, you can use passive solar energy. Two ways to make the most of the sun’s heat: add another south-facing window and more insulation to your roof – this will add to the amount of heat and make it last longer. Any “passive” adjustments like these would be installed either when the house is initially built, or during major refurbishment.
Installing a solar panel to collect sunlight and change it to electricity would be active solar energy. It is becoming more necessary than ever to strengthen our dependence on natural, renewable energy sources as an alternative to dwindling fossil fuels. The renewable power produced by solar energy systems has become the most widespread due to the silent, pollutant free process. Most people stay connected to the grid and add photovoltaic panels (solar panels) to their properties. Any electricity that is left unused is then lead into the electricity grid. In this way you can get compensated for the surplus power you supply. Although many individuals are under the impression you should use a south-facing roof in order to benefit from solar panels, in fact they will still work with an east/west facing roof. An alternative would be to construct a ground-mounted system, in an un-shaded, flat area. A pole, cemented into the ground holds the solar panel in place. If you’re linked to the grid, it can provide your overnight power; if not, you can set up your system to charge batteries during the day with any excess electricity, and those will provide your energy overnight. Recently, an increase in home-owners making their own solar panels shows that people have found a way to get past the high investment needed for installation. DIY solar panels mean a massive saving on the $ 7,000 to $ 40,000 installation costs. And it is easier than it may seem. For safe and effective DIY solar panels it’s important to use the right instruction guide. Combining the long-term savings in lower utility bills, with thousands of dollars saved on installation means that DIY solar panels are an even bigger financial success. Reducing your carbon emissions is one of the benefits of using solar panels, since solar electricity is considered “green” and emits no carbon dioxide (CO2) or other pollutants. A home solar power system could save 2650 lb of CO2 per annum – which is around 30 tons over the lifetime of the system. “The next industrial revolution will be based on these clean green technologies,” – Tony Juniper, director, Friends of the Earth.
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