Saturday, March 13, 2010

How to Convert Solar Energy Into Electricity

Most of the energy on earth comes from the sun. It warms, lights and provides us with nutrients. Clean wind and wave power is nothing but indirect solar energy. Our food supply is based on plants that have captured solar energy through photosynthesis. We, too, can convert this solar energy into an energy that is accessible for our needs.
Understand solar energy. Solar energy is heat and light, which has the qualities of waves and individual particles called photons across a vast range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The sun is a nuclear furnace, converting hydrogen to helium through nuclear fusion. The sun releases the energy of 100 billion H-bombs every second. It's a very efficient process, converting mass directly to energy through Albert Einstein's famous equation: E= MC2 where E is energy, M is Mass and C is the speed of light times itself. At 186,000 miles per second light is the fastest speed in the universe. A tiny bit of mass can make a vast amount of energy.
Realize how energy is converted. Energy is transformed from one form to another by a device known as a transducer. A microphone converts the sound waves to electricity. To convert solar radiation to electricity we need to start with a solar panel.
Look into solar panels. Solar photo voltaic cells (PVC) are essentially semi-conductors, which have electrical transmission properties existing between conductors like metal or salt water and insulators like rubber. Solar panels are constructed with sheets of doped silicon, the primary element in beach sand, with impurities added like phosphorus that allow electrons to flow. When the kinetic solar energy of moving photons hits a PVC, a flow of electrons starts that can be drawn off by a pair of wires, creating direct current (DC) like a battery.
Check with your local utility for rebates and with your state government and the federal government for tax breaks. Once you get a clear understanding as to what help is available, do the math. In many states a solar system will pay for itself in a dozen years. In all cases, if you finance a solar installation with a home equity loan, the interest is tax-deductible.
Install solar panels in an area, preferably a roof, where they will get the most unobstructed exposure to the sun for most of the year. The best way to do this is to get a reliable solar contractor by referral. In some cases, calling your local utility is a good place to start.
Get and install an inverter. Unlike battery power, your house current is alternating, which reverses directing sixty times a second. Before using solar energy to power your appliances, it has to be converted by a device known as an inverter. With most utilities today an inverter will also allow you to feed power back to the electric grid so on a bright sunny day, while you are at work, your electric meter will run backwards.