As the sun beats down and bakes most of the country this summer, it just makes sense that we should be harnessing that energy to power our buildings and operations. Solar power provides the perfect channel to turn the sun’s rays into energy and can be implemented on everything from homes to stadiums.
Solar panels are complex modules of photo-voltaic cells – literally meaning light (photo) – electricity (voltaic). These cells gather sun energy and turn it into electricity. Depending on the energy needs, the solar panels vary in size according to the number of photo-voltaic modules that they incorporate. Modules are held together by special wiring systems and they function as a field unit. Fiberglass, metal, simple glass or even plastic are used for covering the photo-voltaic cells and create the exterior of the solar panels.
There are some conditions that must be kept in mind for solar panels to work properly. First, the cells in the solar panels must be connected with each other in order to accumulate and pass on the electric charge. Secondly, the solar panels need to be protected from the outward environment, since they are very sensitive – hail, heavy snow and winds can all impact the productivity and operation of solar panels. You can increase the performance and the life of the solar panels by insulating against moisture, avoiding metal corrosion.
Solar panels can be a costly solution in the short-term, but can provide a significant portion of the energy consumption of a building. For example, 80% of the heat and electricity needs of a household can be supplied by a solar installation. That’s a solution that more than pays for itself in the long run.
Disadvantages: The materials that create the device which actually produce the energy are not clean. Silicon crystals and non-earth friendly chemicals have to be disposed of at the end of the solar panel’s life cycle. As with all energy, we have to take a careful look at the devices which save us energy and make sure they’re not causing more harm than good.
Advantages: The energy essentially is free once you harness it. Solar energy is renewable because there’s an infinite amount of sun. It can be used in conjunction with other energy sources. And it’s clean since there are no negative by-products that come from the absorption of the sun’s radiation.
For a much more comprehensive breakdown of solar paneling, visit this great eHow guide.