The amount of sunlight that the Earth’s surface receives in an hour and a half is enough to compensate the entire world’s energy consumption for a year. In solar technology, photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors that concentrate solar radiation are used to convert sunlight into electrical energy. This energy can be turned to electricity, stored in batteries, or used to heat a building.
The light emitted by the sun is known as solar radiation, this is also known as electromagnetic radiation. While every area on Earth receives some sunlight over the course of a year, the amount of solar energy reaching any given spot on the planet’s surface fluctuates. Solar tech captures this radiation and converts it into the energy that may be used. Photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) are the two main forms of solar energy technology (CSP).
Photovoltaics, which are used in solar panels, is quite common. When the sun’s rays fall on a solar panel, the PV cells in the panel absorb the energy from the sun. This energy causes electricity to flow by forcing electrical charges to shift in response to an internal electric field in the cell.
The electricity generated is known as direct current (or DC) electricity, instead of alternating current (or AC) electricity, which is used to power most houses. Inverters are known to convert DC to AC electricity and are used commonly used, and the process occurs quite quickly. These inverters can be used as a single inverter for the entire system or as separate microinverters installed behind the panels in newer solar systems.
Mirrors reflect and focus sunlight onto receivers, collecting solar energy and converting it to heat. Subsequently, they can be used to generate electricity or stored for later use in concentrated solar-thermal power systems. This technology is most commonly found in very large power plants.
If you wish to learn how much energy solar panels can produce, visit our blog on energy production by solar panels.