In simple terms, solar energy is the light and heat that comes directly from the sun. It’s the key ingredient in creating solar power — without it, solar panels would be absolutely useless! The good news is that at Sungain Solar, we love educating people on the benefits of solar, and how it all works. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about solar energy. We’ll also provide an in-depth answer to that common question, how is solar energy used?
The primary uses of solar energy
Solar energy can be utilised for a few different purposes. However, depending on the type of solar panels, there are two main applications of solar energy for residential and commercial systems in Australia:
Solar energy can power your home or business
Solar energy can power your home through the use of solar panels, made up of semiconductor cells or solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. The most common form of solar PV cell is typically covered in glass, with an aluminium frame to support the structure. These are the types of panels you likely see on a regular basis.
PV panels are dynamic enough to be used in many different ways, from rooftop installations for residential use, to megawatt-scale power facilities in sun drenched areas. Solar panels are the most common type of solar PV technology.
Solar energy for heating water
The process of turning solar energy into heat is known as solar thermal generation. This technology can be used for a variety of purposes, including creating steam-powered energy as well as space and water heating. The latter is one of the most prevalent applications for solar thermal in Australia.
The way solar thermal works is fairly straightforward. Thermal panels collect solar energy. The energy is then used to heat the fluid which is pumped around a sealed circuit, through the thermal panels and into a coil within a specially built hot water cylinder. The hot water is then kept in a cylindrical storage unit until it’s needed.
However, before solar energy can be used to power your home or heat your water, it must be converted into electricity. We’ll take a closer look at that process below.
The process of converting solar energy into power
The amount of energy generated by the sun that hits the earth every hour is enough to power the whole planet for an entire year. At the moment, we are able to harness just a fraction of that energy and convert it into power.
Here’s how it works:
Solar panels harness solar energy
Sunlight is made up of tiny particles called photons. These microscopic particles travel 150 million kilometres to reach the earth and hit the semiconductors in our solar panels. While it may appear to be a very long journey, this process literally happens at the speed of light!
One of the myths about photons that should be addressed is that solar panels don’t generate power without direct sunlight, which is entirely untrue. Your solar panel system can continue to generate power even with cloud cover, because clouds don’t block out 100% of photons. However, the amount of power it produces will be lower.
Energy is converted into electricity
When photons strike the cell the electrons within the cell create an electric current, which is harnessed by wires connected to the cell’s positive and negative sides.
The generated electricity is multiplied by the number of cells in each panel and the number of panels in each solar array. Combined, a solar array can create a significant amount of electricity for your home or business.
Because the energy produced is direct current (DC), it must first be converted into alternating current (AC), which may then be used for a variety of home appliances.
Your inverter turns DC into AC
Solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity, but your home is powered by alternating current (AC) electricity. This is where an inverter comes into play. A solar inverter’s primary function is to convert DC electricity into usable AC electricity for your home. It works like this:
- The inverter channels DC through its internal transformer.
- The inverter transformer will lower the voltage and convert the energy to alternating current (AC).
- The direct current is routed through two or more transistors.
- The transistors are rapidly turned on and off to feed the transformer’s two different sides.
However, inverters can also serve as the middleman between your home and the power grid. In a situation where your solar panels generate more power than you consume, the inverter can send that extra power back into the grid for a solar-feed-in-tariff, depending on where you are located and your provider.
Saving surplus electricity for future use
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, and any excess energy created throughout the day can be stored in solar batteries for later use.
Batteries play a crucial role in unlocking the full potential of renewable energy. When you require power but there is minimal sunshine, such as at night time or on dark cloudy days, the stored energy can be converted back into electricity and used to power your home.
Solar batteries enable households to maximise their solar power consumption and decrease their reliance on the conventional power grid since you cannot use solar panels alone as a backup power source during a blackout.
Make the most of solar energy today!
By understanding how solar energy is used, you can contribute to a cleaner future. And if you elect to install a solar panel system, you also position yourself to gain from long-term financial benefits such as lower energy bills and increased property value. The good news is, embracing these sustainable and cost-effective advantages of solar energy is easy!
At Sungain Solar, we will walk you through every step of your transition to renewable energy, from design and installation to ongoing support. We’ll help you find the best uses for your solar energy, Our commitment also doesn’t stop there. We offer continuous maintenance and monitoring services to ensure that your solar energy system functions optimally.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free quote today.