Currently generating enough wattage to power 13.1 million American homes, solar power is more popular than ever in the United States. And this trend shows no signs of abating. In fact, over the next five years, solar energy production and use is expected to double with more and more individual residential homeowners choosing to install solar panels for solar power on private property.
In light of the widespread and expanding nature of the solar power market, you’ve likely considered solar installation or adding a solar system to the existing electric infrastructure of your home or business. But what, exactly does the generation of solar power entail? How safe is it? And, perhaps, most importantly, does it really work?
Although you may be intimidated by the science behind solar power generation, it is actually far simpler than you might think. In fact, the fundamentals of solar energy production can be readily understood in five basic steps.
1. Collecting Light Energy With Your Solar Panels
The firs step in the solar energy generation process involves the collection of particles of light (or photons) by a network of solar panels. Typically located on the roof of residential structures, these solar panels are securely affixed with the help of solar panel mounts and arranged in an effective light-capturing group called a solar array. Each solar panel is comprised of numerous photovoltaic cells made from dual layers of crystalline silicon or another semi-conducting material.
2. Transferring Light Energy to Electricity
By introducing phosphorous into the top layer of each solar panel’s photovoltaic cell, makers of solar panels are able to seed them with extra electrons. As photons of sunlight hit this layer, they knock these extra electrons free to begin a flow of energy and generate an electric current. Conductive metal plates on the sides of each photovoltaic cell collect this current and transfer it into a network of wires.
3. Converting Electricity from DC to AC
The direct current (DC) generated by your solar panels is incompatible with the alternating current (AC) that drives the electric infrastructure in your home (as well as the other homes, businesses, streets, and public gathering places that surround it). Among other things, AC allows the power grid to more easily boost or limit specific voltage levels as necessary. In any event, the DC emanating from your solar panels is virtually useless when it comes to powering lights, appliances, and devices. Therefore, this DC electricity must first run through an inverter that converts it to standard AC for general consumption.
4. Sending Safe AC Electricity Throughout Your Home
In order to use your solar energy safely and efficiently, however, you must add another piece of essential equipment called a charge controller. Without a charge controller, your entire solar system will lack critical stability. An excessive surge of power can not only completely destroy this system but place you and your family at serious risk of house fires and/or electrocution. With a properly functioning and professionally installed charge controller, however, you can maintain manageable power levels and protect your system from becoming overloaded.
5. Feeding Electricity Back into the Public Power Grid
The final step in the solar power generation process involves the electric utility meter that is normally mounted on the exterior of your home. Constantly measuring all of the energy produced and used on your property, it can feed any excess energy into the public power grid. This means that solar panel owners who generate more electricity than they consume may receive money back from their local electric company.
If you have further questions about the solar energy generation process or want to explore your solar power options with a qualified professional, contact HomePro Solutions today. We have the technical know-how and customer service expertise necessary to ensure that every solar power project is a success.