We all know that a solar panel is a group of electrically connected solar cells, enclosed in a frame, which converts sunlight into electricity. We have heard that the installation of solar panels helps in combating the harmful emissions of greenhouse gases and it reduces costs on energy bills. Yet a lot is still unknown about the technology and how it produces electricity out of sunlight.
Here are 10 interesting facts about Solar panels and Installations
The first clean energy invented
In 1839, French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect while experimenting with a cell made of metal electrodes in a conducting solution. He noted that the cell produced more electricity when it was exposed to light. Shortly after, Russell Ohl invented the first solar panel cell in 1941 and the first commercial panel was put out by Bell Laboratories in 1954. Starting the process that would lead to today’s solar panel. This solar cell used an element, silicon, not used previously for this purpose. Using silicon, Bell Labs was able to produce more power from their solar cell than any design before it. Bell Lab’s solar cell was 4% efficient (compared to today’s typical solar panel that is 18% efficient).
Solar panels efficiency are rapidly improving, due to innovation
It wasn’t until 1954 that Bell Labs invented the first useful silicon solar panel, which was about six percent efficient. Solar panels are now more than 20% efficient, thanks to innovation in the solar power industry. These high-efficiency panels can produce 25 percent more electricity than the lower-tier economy panels that made up the majority of the market in past years. Just over 5 years ago the most efficient solar panel on the market was 17.8%. Today solar panels have an efficiency range of 20 to 23%! The two leading brands when it comes to efficiencies are SunPower and Panasonic.
Solar energy is completely free and renewable
Solar panels create absolutely no waste or emissions. Unlike fossil fuel power plants, they produce clean, renewable energy from a fuel source that requires no locating, excavation, transportation, or combustion. It’s a simpler, cheaper, cleaner, and all-around better energy solution. So you will reduce your carbon footprint by using solar energy since it is totally green and renewable.
What are they made of?
Solar panels contain solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells, made of semiconductors (such as silicon) that convert sunlight into electricity. When light hits the cells, the electrons are separated from their atoms and flow through the cell, thus generating electricity.
Solar Panels Type
There are two types of solar panels. Photovoltaic (solar PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity, while solar thermal panels heat water by absorbing the sun’s warmth, and can be used to heat homes or swimming pools.
How solar panels produce electricity
Solar cells produce electricity by causing a reaction between photons and electrons at the atomic scale. Photons, which are rays of light, collide with electrons, and the electrons get catapulted loose. Then, the electrons are captured and channeled into usable electricity. Solar cells capture certain types of wavelengths in the sun’s light spectrum and convert this into electricity.
After installation, almost no solar panel maintenance is required. You will only have to make sure they’re clean and not shaded by anything. A tilted roof will require less cleaning since rain helps remove dirt. Additionally, solar panels have a very long lifespan. They carry a standard 25-years warranty but can last up to 30-40 years.
Solar panels do not need direct sunlight to work
Solar panels use daylight energy to generate electricity, so panels do not need direct sunlight to work. It is photons in natural daylight which is converted by solar panel cells to produce electricity. The heat has no effect on the production of electricity. The materials in the panels, usually silicon, create an electric current when met with natural daylight, and this current is then used as standard electricity within properties. On the other hand, no electricity can be produced at night, but a solar battery storage system can solve this problem.
Benefit from solar power at night
The solar panel doesn’t produce any electricity at night. But a solar battery storage system can solve this problem. You can store excess power by using a battery system for later use when it’s required. An alternative to this is to take advantage of net metering or feed-in tariffs (depending on what is possible in your state) and feed excess power back into the grid.
Solar panels can be used on any type of building, road, bridge, and even spacecraft and satellites. Solar energy is making its way into all aspects of life: lightweight, portable panels are already present on solar blinds for your windows and small devices like phone chargers. Moreover, next-generation cars and boats are updating to solar.
How much of a solar panel can be recycled
In the Silicon-Based Solar Panel recycling process, almost all (95%) of the glass can be reused, while all external metal parts are used for re-molding cell frames. The remainder materials are treated at 500°C in a thermal processing unit in order to ease up the binding between the cell elements.
Australian solar panel waste predictions
The amount of solar panel waste in Australia was 900 tons in 2016. This figure is expected to rise to 2000 tons in 2020, 30000 tons in 2030, and 300000 tons in 2040, with a whopping 900000 tons in 2050. Goes to show the need for solar panel recycling!
Solar panels applications in space
Spacecraft operating in the inner Solar System usually rely on the use of photovoltaic solar panels to derive electricity from sunlight. Outside the orbit of Jupiter, solar radiation is too weak to produce sufficient power within current solar technology and spacecraft mass limitations, so radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) are instead used as a power source.
Spectrolab, a division of Boeing, manufacture high-efficiency solar panels for the space industry. These solar panels are made from special materials to protect it from solar radiation and the extreme environmental conditions of space. These solar panels also have an efficiency ratio of 31%!
We’ve discussed few facts about solar panels and installations. If you are interested in investing in solar panels for your home or commercial space, then contact us.