It is no longer news that the sun has tremendous power. The energy generated by this power-house in 24 hours will take care of the world’s energy for 27 years – that’s less than one-hour energy generation for a year’s consumption. Amazing. Solar energy is a reliable energy source with great cost-effectiveness and environmental safety.
The generation, use, and storage of solar energy have seen significant improvements over the years. Solar panels are installed to trap solar energy, from where they are converted to electrical energy and any other form of energy needed for daily living. There are different types of solar panels based on efficiency and effectiveness in trapping solar energy in varying environments. If the solar panel matches the peculiar needs of an environment, energy generation will be efficient, cost-effective, and reliable.
In the last couple of years, the UK has seen a rapid increase in solar photovoltaic power generation. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, there was an incredible 87 percent increase in solar PV power generation.
Options or Types of Solar Panel
The type of solar panel to choose is influenced by several factors including location hence it is vital to understand the differences.
First Generation Solar Panels
These are the very first technologies of solar panels designed to harness the powerful energy of the sun. Monocrystalline silicon or polysilicon is used in the design of these solar panels. Their usage is rampant in conventional environments.
Monocrystalline Solar Panel
This is the purest form of solar panels and is made of monocrystalline silicon. They have a uniform dark appearance and the edges are rounded. It has one of the highest efficiency rates which is due to the high purity level of the silicon. They can offer up to or more than 20% efficiency, especially the newest ones.
Other key features of this type of solar panels are high power output, less space required, and great durability. They are also not as affected by high temperatures as the polycrystalline options. Monocrystalline solar panels (Mono-SI) are the most expensive but they are worth the price.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
These solar panels are made by melting raw silicon. It is a faster and cheaper process in comparison to monocrystalline solar panels. Polycrystalline solar panels have squares and a blue, speckled appearance. Its efficiency is about 15% – 5% lower than monocrystalline which could make a significant difference. Also, it is affected by high temperature hence has a shorter lifespan. It requires more space but has a lower price. Overall, the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are not huge – the decision of the one to go for depends mainly on the peculiarities of situations.
Second Generation Solar Panels
As solar energy technology advances, thin-film solar panels emerge. Their main usage is in photovoltaic power stations and smaller solar systems.
Thin-film Solar Cells
One or more films of photovoltaic materials are placed on a substrate to manufacture this cheaper solar panel option. They are very easy to manufacture and require less material hence the cheaper price. One of its best features is flexibility which allows them to be used for diverse purposes. They are not suitable for residential usage because more space is required. Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels have a better life span.
Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell
Triple-layered technology, which is the best among thin-film cells, is used by amorphous silicon solar cells. It is 1 micrometer thick and has an efficiency of 7%. They are commonly used for pocket calculators that are powered by solar.
Though they are cheaper than crystalline silicon panels, they are less effective.
Third Generation Solar Panels
This type of solar panel is still largely being refined. A variety of thin-film technologies are used including energy generation through organic and inorganic materials.
Biohybrid Solar Cell
The idea behind this panel lies with the exploration of the photo photosystem 1. It is to work like photosynthesis. Multiple layers of photosystem 1 are combined with traditional solar panel materials to create a more effective conversion of energy. They are being designed to offer as high as 1000 times more efficiency than the first generation of solar panels. It is still largely in the research phase but will definitely make a huge difference when it is eventually manufactured.
Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell
This technology allows the cheap production of solar cells. It requires the least amount of water but there is concern about its toxicity. Cadmium Telluride used for the production is said to be toxic if inhaled or ingested. This is a major problem given the great celebration of solar panels is largely due to its safety, both to humans and the environment.
Concentrated PV Cell
CVP cells are one of the most efficient solar panels, offering up to 41% efficiency. Sun rays are bundled through curved mirror surfaces, lenses, and occasionally cooling systems. All of these contribute to the high efficiency. They work like conventional photovoltaic systems.
The only weakness of these solar cells is that they must face the sun at a perfect angle to achieve such high efficiency. A solar tracker is integrated into the panel to follow the sun as it moves hence keeping the panel at a perfect angle.
Solar thermal and solar water heating
These are alternatives to the traditional solar panel. Their main advantage is for heating water but they also have other functions.
General Benefits of Solar Panels
With an average home receiving at least 5 hours of sunlight daily, there is more than enough solar energy to efficiently take care of all their electrical needs. Even on a cloudy day, solar panels can store up enough energy to efficiently power your electronics. By installing an adequate solar energy system, you will save significantly on your energy cost. Other cost-effectiveness of solar panels include the protection of roof from rain and sun and lower home cooling cost because solar panels absorb the sun rays that would have otherwise heat the roof and increase the temperature in the house.
Earn Tax Credits and Rebates
In addition to saving a lot on energy bills, the installation of a solar system also earns you tax credits and rebates. You will get up to 30 percent of the total amount spent on the installation as a federal income tax credit. For a solar system installation that costs about $30,000, you will save up to $9,000. When local and state rebates, as well as Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), are brought into the picture, you can save up to half of the investment on the solar panel installation.
Environmental Benefits of Solar Panels
The electricity generated by solar panels is called green electricity because they are eco-friendly. They make huge differences in the environment, especially with the increasing unpredictability seeing in climate changes. Some of the key environmental benefits of solar panels or solar energy are:
Reduction of Greenhouse Gas and CO2 Emissions
Solar energy system significantly offsets the greenhouse gas released from tons of waste and C02 emissions from hundreds of thousands of pounds of burned coals. A high level of greenhouse gas and C02 emission in the atmosphere contributes largely to global warming. This alters the ecosystem significantly hence initiating a wide range of negative consequences. The use of solar panels helps to maintain a clean and safe environment.
Reduction of Water Pollution
This is not a very obvious advantage of a solar system. However, it is one of the most significant importance of the solar system. The amount of water required for traditional electricity sources is enormous e.g. lots of water is required for cooling. With the increasing need for water management, the solar system which uses far less amount of water is great news. This means drinking systems, agriculture, and other key water needs have more water supply.
Reduction of Strain on Finite resources
One of the biggest concerns of experts is the ability of the earth to handle the explosive population growth. This resulted in the postulation of several theories and diverse predictions. Frankly, earth resources are very finite – given the trend of population growth, we could have ended up very short on energy except for the invention of solar panels which tapped into the superabundance energy supply of the sun. Every second, the sun produces 173,000 terawatts of solar energy which is greater than the energy need of the whole world in 10,000 times.
In recent times, experts are increasingly emphasizing the need to keep a clean ecosystem as climate changes become unprecedently unpredictable. The use of solar panels will do more than we can possibly account for in keeping a clean ecosystem. With the advent of more solar cars and solar systems for industrial purposes, air pollution will be significantly reduced hence reducing the depletion of the ozone layer that helps to avoid overheating of the earth.
Solar energy is a very clean and safe energy source that helps to maintain the natural integrity of nature. Besides its environmental benefits, it is cost-effective. Solar panels will play fundamental roles in the stabilization of climate and keeping a clean ecosystem.