Solar panels have been around for over half a century. Now, as the technology has advanced over recent years, they are seen as one of the principal sources of alternative energy.
Solar panels work by absorbing sunlight and converting it into useful energy. The panels are made up of solar cells (photovoltaic cells) arranged in a grid, which collect the sun's rays during daylight hours and convert their energy into electricity. The solar cells within the panel function in a similar way to semiconductors. The energy generated from light photons hitting the surface of the solar panel knock electrons out of their orbit and releases them. The electric fields in the solar cells pull these free electrons in a directional current to the metal contacts in the solar cell which can generate electricity. The greater the number of solar cells in a panel, the greater the electrical output the solar panel can produce.
The efficiency of a solar panel, and how much energy it produces, depends on the climate, weather and number of daylight hours of the location where it is installed. They produce most energy when exposed to direct sunlight in clear skies but will also produce a reduced amount under cloudy skies. All PV panels are affected by heat. The hotter the panel, the lower the power output (20% to 40%). This means that power generation can be higher in winter than summer despite the fact that the sun is lower in the sky.
The maximum power a panel can produce and the actual power it delivers are not at the same - the actual power depends upon the amount of light energy falling on the panel.
Most solar electric panels are labelled with their peak power output - this is the maximum power (measured in watts) that the panel can generate in full sunlight. Work out the power produced by finding out the number of 'peak sun hours' your location receives each day, then multiply the watt rating of the solar panel by the number of peak sun hours. Sun hours will vary by season with the lowest being in the winter.
Solar panels are an investment in the future. You can look forward to your own independent power supply and once you have paid off the cost of installing your home solar power systems, you will effectively have free electricity. With ever rising electricity prices that can't be bad.
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