Solar Energy: All You Need To Know

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Solar Energy: All You Need To Know
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What is Solar Energy?

The U.S. is moving towards a solar-powered future with more than 179 gigawatts (G.W.) of solar energy systems already installed in the U.S. This massive amount of solar energy is enough to power 32.5 million homes. So naturally, everyone wants to know what solar energy is and why it is gaining so much popularity.

Solar energy is available naturally in abundance, at least in most parts of the globe. It is available at a rate about 10,000 times greater than the rate at which we can consume energy. This free energy can be harnessed using solar panels and other technologies for heating, cooling, lighting, electric power, and much more. Solar technologies convert the energy from sunlight into electrical energy using photovoltaic panels or mirrors that concentrate solar radiation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Solar energy is a renewable energy source available forever until we have the sun. This energy source is very environmentally friendly and is helping the world to move away from fossil fuels.
  • Solar panels have no moving parts, so the maintenance is simple and they can last up to 25 to 30 years.
  • Solar technology helps you save a substantial amount on electricity costs.

Applications of Solar Energy

What is solar energy used for? Solar energy can be used for various industrial and domestic purposes. The two main applications are power generation using photovoltaics and solar thermal heating. As solar technology evolves, there is always a new dimension to what solar energy is used for. It is now used in water distillation, space energy, airplanes, industrial heating, etc.

Solar Water Heating

Solar water heating is rapidly gaining popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional water heaters. There are two different models for using solar energy for water heating. Active water systems work with direct circulation systems and indirect circulation systems. On the other hand, passive water systems in solar water heating employ integral collector-storage and thermosiphon systems. These systems are used in industries, hotels, hospitals, etc.

Solar Heating for Buildings

Heating is one of the most expensive uses of gas and power. Harnessing solar energy to heat buildings helps save a significant chunk of grid power.

Solar-distillation

Solar distillation systems benefit remote areas with less or no drinking water supply, like third-world countries. In this method, solar energy transforms saline water into distilled water.

Solar pumping and Solar Drying for Agriculture

Solar energy is used for pumping water, especially during harvest season. Solar drying refers to agricultural and animal products that increase life by avoiding harsh sunlight and preventing low moisture.

Solar Furnaces

Solar furnaces use mirrors to generate the high heat required for the application. The sunlight is captured using slanted and rotating mirrors. This technology is different from the traditional solar panels.

Solar Electric Power Generation

Solar power generation is the most common application of solar energy. This application uses Photovoltaic (P.V.) cells in solar panels to generate electricity through direct sunlight.

Solar Thermal Power Production

Solar thermal power production is primarily used in industries. This technology stores thermal energy by heating fluids through a turbine. The generated steam is converted into electric power.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Advantages of Solar Energy

  • There is no risk of depletion as the soolar energy is an abundantly available renewable energy source.
  • Sunlight is accessible, so solar energy systems run at zero fuel cost. Eventually, the cost of power is reduced significantly.
  • Solar energy allows you to go wholly or partially off-grid. Off-grid solar panel systems are prevalent in remote areas, even in third-world countries and Africa.
  • Solar energy saves you money in many areas. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that every dollar a solar panel can save you on your electrical bills can increase the value of your property by $20. The selling price of solar-powered houses is at least four percent higher.
  • The cost of installing solar energy systems usually breaks even within 6 to 10 years as you continuously save on grid power.
  • Solar energy systems have no moving parts; hence, the maintenance cost and effort are very low. Even professional maintenance services for your panels will cost between $140 to $180.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

  • The upfront cost of installing solar energy systems is considerably high. You can expect a total cost of around $18,000 for a complete solar setup for a home.
  • Solar energy systems are dependent on sunlight. When the weather is cloudy, the performance of solar panels might suffer.
  • Installation of solar panels can be complicated, especially for smaller houses with less sun-exposed areas.
  • Though no fossil fuels or gas emissions are involved in solar power generation, the manufacturing process has an environmental impact and creates a considerable amount of greenhouse gas. Also, the disposal of solar panels is a challenge to the environment as the options for recycling are limited.
  • If you are moving houses, trying to move your solar energy setup with you is challenging and expensive.
  • The scarcity of materials for manufacturing solar panels is also a rising issue.

Solar Technologies

So far, we have discussed what solar energy is in detail. Let's get technical and see how this technology works and what different working models are available.

1. Solar Photovoltaic Technology

Whenever we discuss what solar energy is, the first thing that comes into mind is the P.V. solar panels. This technology generates electricity using direct sunlight and converts it into electricity.

P.V. includes small appliances like calculators and road signs ranging from complete homes to large commercial businesses.

working of solar panels

2. Passive Solar Technology

While active solar technology uses solar panels to capture direct sunlight, passive technology uses the natural environment and the sun's energy to heat or cool your home without solar panels. Passive solar technology uses south-facing glass or thermal mass components that absorb and reflect heat.

five elements of passive solar design

Passive solar cooling systems can also regulate your home's internal temperature by blocking out excessive heat with proper shading and ventilation.

3. Solar Water Heating

Solar water heating or 'solar thermal' uses solar panels to absorb the sunlight and transfer it to your home water. It is an effective method to heat water without excessive power and cost; however, the output will be considerably less during winters.

active, closed loop solar water heater

4. Solar Process Heat

In the above section, we have mainly discussed what solar energy is and how it is used in domestic setups. We are talking about the following two solar technologies more about industrial solar energy technologies.

solar process heat

A solar thermal system for industrial processes is an innovative technology. It works by converting the solar energy into heat instead of electricity. This heat is used for industrial processes and workflows.

Solar process heat technology is rapidly growing, and industries are migrating to this technology. This technology will eventually play a significant role in industrial decarbonization efforts.

5. Concentrating Solar Power

Concentrating solar power or CSP technologies use mirrors instead of solar panels to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver. This heat is called thermal energy, which can be used to spin a turbine or power an engine to generate electricity. CSP is now widely used for water desalination, enhanced oil recovery, mineral processing, chemical production, and food processing.

concentrating solar power

Solar Costs and Incentives

Solar energy costs depend on many factors, including the system's output, where you live, the type of solar panels, the storage used, etc. Generally, solar panels range from $8,500 to $30,500, with the average 6kW solar energy system costing around $12,700. We found that solar panel prices vary based on where you live, the size of the system, the type of solar panels, and more.

However, the cost has significantly reduced in recent years because governments offer substantial tax incentives and subsidies. Also, technology is evolving, and solar panel manufacturing costs are dropping.

Let us see how the governments support the cost-cutting of solar energy by tax exemptions, biting back solar power, and what the solar energy cost is.

Germany

In Germany, households that produce excess solar energy to the national grid. It is called the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme, and it pays households a rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity.

Additionally, Germany also offers tax incentives for energy-efficient renovations. The households can claim back 20%, i.e., up to €40,000 ($44,000) of renovation costs if they replace inefficient equipment or buy new heating systems and insulation.

United States

In the U.S., $400 billion in federal funding is available as tax credits for decarbonization. They encourage the private sector to invest in large-scale projects, like producing clean hydrogen or nuclear facilities.

India

India is also trying to convert to renewable energy, aiming for 65% of its power generation to come from non-fossil fuels by 2030. They are offering subsidies to encourage the masses to install solar panels. The Indian government has announced incentives for rooftop solar in its Interim Budget 2024-2025. It provides ten million households the opportunity to obtain free solar electricity every month.

Australia

Australia also aims to generate more than 80% of its electrical power from renewable sources by 2030. It assists households in combating the high upfront costs of solar energy systems under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.

They also have programs to offer low-interest loans and grants for renewable energy projects.

China

China is a leader in solar energy production and will add another 30% solar capacity in 2023. The Chinese government also offers financial incentives for renewable power installation. They also have a feed-in tariff program in which they pay the households that generate excess solar power by buying back.

Historical Context and Future Outlook

Using solar energy to cook, dry, and heat has been introduced previously. In ancient times, sunlight was the primary source of energy. Later, they learned to construct buildings with sufficient and proper sunlight angles to store solar energy and keep their homes warm at night. However, the technology to convert this energy into electricity was only developed in the 1950s. Solar panels were first on the Vanguard I space satellite launched in 1958. We have not looked back since, and technological advancements have brought solar energy systems into our homes and industries.

A Solar-Powered Future Outlook

As technology evolves, the solar energy system increases in efficiency and decreases in size and cost. So, it is affordable for most people, and even smaller solar panels produce enough electricity, so space requirement is also decreasing. We will have intelligent solar applications like solar films, solar roadways, solar windows, and so on.

Solar orbs and solar cars are innovations that are expected to be available to everyone soon. We can easily predict that in the coming decade, the future of power will remain solar energy.

Jackery Solar Generators Power Outdoors & Indoor

The Jackery solar generators combine solar energy's power with a generator's portability. These generators harness the power of solar energy using portable solar panels and then store it for later use. They are lightweight and powerful, allowing them to power large home appliances, including refrigerators, T.V.s, space heaters, air conditioners, etc. They are the best option for powering up your camping, boating, and other outdoor adventures. Following are recommendations for home and camping.

Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus

Capacity: Rated Watt: 2000W

Surge Watts: 6000W

Capacity:2042.8Wh

Battery Cell & Life Cycle: LFP (LiFePO4 battery)

Cycle life: 4000 cycles to 70%+ capacity

Recharging Methods & Time  Solar Panel: 3-4 Hours 

A.C. Adapter: 2 Hours

Car Adapter: 25 Hours

Appliances: Portable Air Conditioner(1150W) 1.9 H

Microwave (1050W) 1.5 H

Kettle(850W)1.9 H

Coffee Maker (550W) 2.8 H

Electric Oven (800W)2.1 H

The Solar Generator 2000 Plus starts with a capacity of 2 kWh and can be expanded up to 24 kWh by adding a battery pack and solar panels. It is an excellent option for off-grid living and backup in case of power outages or emergencies. It is highly reliable and durable, and the outstanding LiFePO4 battery gives you a 10-year lifespan. Since it is noise-free, you can easily use it in your house without disturbance.

Review: “Received my Jackery last week. Delivery was prompt, and the unit was well-packed. Everything works as stated.:" - Robert Delozier.

Jackery Solar Generator 300 Plus

Capacity: Rated Watt: 300 W

Surge Watts: 600 W

Capacity: 288Wh

Battery Cell & Life Cycle: LiFePO4 Cycle life:3000 cycles to 80%+ capacity

Recharging Methods &Time: Solar Panel: 9.5 Hours

A.C. Adapter 2 Hours

Car Adapter: 5.5 Hours

Appliances: Drone (90W) 5 Times

Camera (8.4W) 12 Times

Mobile Phone (29W) 13 Times

Computer (80W) 3 Times

Gaming Console (18W) 10 Times

The Jackery solar generator 300 plus is your best power companion for any outdoor adventure. It has enough capacity to power your camping equipment, including a laptop, mobile phone, lights, and a ventilator. The Jackery Solar Panels are weather-resistant and come with an IP68 waterproof and dust-resistant rating, which means you can use them outdoors in all types of weather.

Review: “Works great! I bought this mainly for power at my stand during craft shows. Did the job. Our area has a scheduled power outage from 10 pm-6 am tonight, so we will use it to power a light or run a laptop to watch movies." - G.B.

Conclusion

Solar energy is the most popular and evolving energy source globally. What is solar energy? Solar energy means harnessing the energy from the sunlight, which is available in abundance and for free. Then this energy from sunlight is converted into electricity or heat to fulfill the power requirements. Most countries are giving incentives to encourage people to convert to solar energy as it is cheaper, renewable, and also very environmentally friendly. A solar-powered future is the way to go!

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