Everything you need to know
Solar panels are a great investment
But how do you maintain them?
What is a solar panel?
Solar energy begins with the sun.
Solar panels (also known as "PV
panels") are used to convert light from the sun, which is composed of particles of energy called
"photons", into electricity that can be used to power electrical loads.
Solar panels can be used for a wide variety of applications including remote power systems for cabins, telecommunications equipment, remote sensing, and of course for the production of electricity by residential and commercial solar electric systems.
On this page, we will discuss the history, technology, and benefits of solar panels. We will learn how solar panels work, how they are made, how they create electricity, and where you can buy solar panels.
A Short History of Solar Panels
The development of solar energy goes back more than 100 years.
In the early days, solar energy was used primarily for the production of steam which
could then be used to drive machinery. But it wasn't until the discovery of the "photovoltaic
effect" by Edmond Becquerel that would allow the conversion of sunlight solar electric energy.
Becquerel's discovery then led to the invention in 1893 by Charles Fritts of the first genuine
solar cell which was formed by coating sheets of selenium with a thin layer of gold. And from
this humble beginning would arise the device we know today as the solar panel.
Russel Ohl, an American inventor on the payroll of Bell Laboratories, patented the world's first silicon solar cell in 1941. Ohl's invention led to the production of the first solar panel in 1954 by the same company.
Solar panels found their first mainstream use in space satellites. For most people, the first solar panel in their life was probably embedded in their new calculator - circa the 1970s!
Today, solar panels and complete solar panel systems are used to power a wide variety of applications. Yes, solar panels in the form of solar cells are still being used in calculators. However, they are also being used to provide solar power to entire homes and commercial buildings, such as Google's headquarters in California.
Using solar panels is a very practical way to produce electricity for many applications. The obvious
would have to be off-grid living. Living off-grid means living in a location that is not serviced by the
main electric utility grid.
Remote homes and cabins benefit nicely from solar power systems. No longer is it necessary to pay huge fees for the installation of electric utility poles and cabling from the nearest main grid access point.
A solar electric system is potentially less expensive and can provide power for upwards of three decades if properly maintained.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels collect clean renewable energy
Solar panels collect clean renewable
energy in the form of sunlight and convert that light into electricity which can then be used to
provide power for electrical loads.
Solar panels are comprised of several individual solar cells which are themselves composed of layers of silicon, phosphorous (which provides the negative charge), and boron (which provides the positive charge).
Solar panels absorb the photons and in doing so initiate an electric current.
The resulting energy generated from photons striking the surface of the solar panel allows electrons to be knocked out of their atomic orbits and released into the electric field generated by the solar cells which then pull these free electrons into a directional current.
This entire process is known as the Photovoltaic Effect.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
They also require little maintenance.
Last, but not least, of the benefits
of solar panels and solar power is that, once a system has paid for its initial installation
costs, the electricity it produces for the remainder of the system's lifespan, which could be as
much as 15-20 years depending on the quality of the system, is absolutely free! For grid-tie
solar power system owners, the benefits begin from the moment the system comes online,
potentially eliminating monthly electric bills or, and this is the best part, actually earning
the system's owner additional income from the electric company. How? If you use less power than
your solar electric system produces, that excess power can be sold, sometimes at a premium, to
your electric utility company!
There are many other applications and benefits of using solar panels to generate your electricity needs - too many to list here. But as you browse our website, you'll gain a good general knowledge of just how versatile and convenient solar power can be.