So you’ve converted to a hybrid car. You use nothing but CFL bulbs. Your dishwasher, shower head, and sprinkler system are all designed to conserve water. And you recycle every piece of paper, aluminum, and cardboard that enters your home. You may be ready for the next step: solar electricity.
Even if you haven’t integrated environmentally sustainable methods into every aspect of your home, you may be interested in harvesting energy from the ultimate source: the sun, our most powerful and untapped resource. Solar electricity is energy directly generated from the sun using photovoltaic (PV) technology.
In a solar-powered home, PV cells are configured together into a series of modules, or solar panels, which absorb fractions of the sun’s energy. Each PV cell is made from a semiconductor, usually silicon, which frees electrons once photons from light enter. The free electrons create an electrical current that can be harvested by metal borders around each PV cell.
Solar panels are assembled perpendicular to the sun’s rays for maximum effectiveness. They can be mounted easily on sloping rooftops using frames. Solar panels produce more power during the summer months and in regions where the sunlight lasts longer. They are often configured in conjunction with a home’s grid power system using a grid tie inverter. Measured in watts or kilowatts, solar power is also used to charge batteries, power electrical equipment such as appliances, lighting, or computers, or for other energy storing devices.
In some parts of the world, the grid connect PV power system is used to power city buildings as well as homes. Stand-alone PV systems usually store energy in batteries. In both cases, PV power can be combined with other forms of energy, such as a wind turbine or diesel generator, resulting in highly efficient hybrid energy systems.
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