Does Solar Power Work?

Filed under : Environment

When it comes to solar energy there are many questions. The best way to clear them is to understand how the technology works. This will also be useful in picking the right equipment, given that market today is filled with many products and solutions from various vendors. Why do we see a plethora of vendors today, is because of the support and boost that the government has been giving these alternate energy sources over the past decade. Knowing about the solar energy will only help you make the right choices.

The sun as we see it today, is one of the largest nuclear reactors known to man. The reactions within the sun continue to produce energy in the form of light. Light consists of photons which are characterised by two factors: wavelength and frequency. The wavelength of a photon is the distance between two photons in the same phase of motion and the frequency is the rate at which the photons change their phases.

The concept of wavelength is important in understanding solar energy products because the sun does not radiate uniformly at all wavelengths. Unless you can appreciate this concept, you will have a tough time figuring out which solar equipment will convert maximum solar energy. Typically the sun radiates more energy in the infra-red range of wavelengths than the visible range. Here you must also understand the idea of colors of various objects. The sun’s light is white light, which means it has all the colors, but when it hits a blue object, you can see the blue color. This is because that object absorbs all the colors and reflects back blue. Logically, anything that seems black in color is absorbing all the light and reflecting none.

The total energy radiated by the sun can satisfy our growing energy demands many times over. In fact, if we can generate 6 kWh of power from 5 square meters of PV cells, that energy is sufficient to power our whole house with all the appliances for that day. Just imagine the sheer quantity of energy we have been neglecting for centuries. Tapping the solar energy is basically, facilitating a photonic reaction between the sunlight and the PV to convert the light energy into electric energy that can be used to power our home. Of course, if you do not have the optimum solar energy absorption you will end up with an inefficient system. Learn more about solar power benefits at the Home Solar Power Guide.

There are some materials that are transparent enough to pass radiation through them but at the same time are good insulators not allowing the heat to escape. These are very important in building solar power equipment. A good choice for such functions is regular glass with iron silicon impregnations. This can pass a wide range of light wavelengths and also block the heat. Here it is useful to understand the concept of a filter. A filter in light terminology is a device that allows certain wavelengths to pass, but reflects the others. A very good example of filter is our sunglasses. We get sunglasses that reflect UV rays and pass visible light. Similarly coatings on windows to block bright light are another example. Filters play an important role in glazing for solar water heaters. The aim is to maximise the energy collection from the sun’s rays which happens to be in the infra-red range the filters used for glazing are designed to pass these wavelengths and filter the less productive colors.

It is interesting to note that any material that you pick will have some combination of filter, reflector and absorber features. We talked about windows with filter, but even plain windows do no pass all the sunlight that falls on them. They reflect back 15% of the light and pass the rest. In fact the atmosphere also has similar properties; it is no surprise that sunlight is pleasant at dawn and dusk but harsh during mid-day. In the morning,because of its distance from the earth sunlight must travel much longer through our atmosphere then when it travels at noon. As a result, the rays are weakened at morning and evening as compared to noon.

The same logic holds true for summer and winter months too. Due to the position of the sun and earth a lesser amount of sunlight makes it to the earth surface during winters as compared to summers. As a result, less light can be absorbed during winter. Since absorption of photons releases heat during winter months less heat is released as compared to summer months. These are some concepts you must know to understand how solar energy works.

Want to find out more solar power facts then visit Richie Vee’s site on how to choose the best solar power kits for your needs.

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