Warmth, light, and energy are three of the main reasons we have come to harness the sun. Solar energy is nothing new, but when it comes down to the technical side of things, do you really know what it is, how it works and how to best apply it? Before you hit the search button on “solar companies in my area”, consider a few things:
Solar power generates by converting the sun’s rays to energy through a process known as the photovoltaic effect. This power is as efficient as grid power to power household appliances, lighting and more. The photovoltaic effect is at the centre point of the solar energy process.
How to solar power your home (or office)
Of course, to do this, you will need solar panels for the home, but what are the components, and what do you need? Other than the solar panels themselves, there are other parts to the system that will eventually power your life. The crucial components of a solar power system are:
Solar panels – without these, you will not be able to capture any energy from the sun. You can expect a variation in size between commercial panels and panels for residential use. The larger the panel, the more watts it can generate. So, you need comparatively fewer panels to generate the same amount of power.
The size and weight of commercial-sized panels are however also greater, which means a more labour-intensive installation process, as a larger and heavier installation is more difficult to get to the point of compliance.
What else do you need?
Secondly, you will need an inverter. There are two types – a string inverter, which is a bit larger and more or less the size of small suitcase, and a microinverter, which is about the size of a book.
The entire system fixes onto racking, which is essentially a mounting system made of aluminium. The corrosion-resistance and stability of a system will vary between brands.
Storing and managing the energy
It is of very little use to generate all this power and not to have any means of storing it. If you have system that is integrated with the grid, you won’t need to store it, as surplus energy will simply be fed back into the grid, but if you are in a more remote of off-grid area, you will need batteries to store the electricity.
For off-grid storage, you will need a few extra components. In addition to batteries, there are some smaller components to consider, like wiring, fuses, etc. You could also consider adding monitoring equipment to keep track of your usage.
Drawbacks of solar power
There is a fairly high cost to the upfront outlay – solar panel costs can be quite high. Expect to pay a few thousand dollars, even for a small system. While you will definitely recoup the costs over time, that which you have to pay before reaping the benefits can be intimidating.
The fact that the system’s functionality relies on the weather can also prove to be tricky. Your output of energy is directly affected by the exposure your panels have to sunlight, so rainy, snowy or overcast conditions can make it operation problematic.