Solar Energy Revealed: How Does Solar Energy Work?

September 29, 2016 | By EcoMark Solar

In today’s world, it’s difficult to avoid the double-edged sword of household energy. While electricity enables a comfortable modern life, you can never be sure when the next spike in energy prices will happen. Worse, you never know how much of your energy is produced by wasteful, climate-harming fossil fuels.

Solar energy presents an opportunity to tap into one of the most powerful natural resources available. The sun’s rays contain so much energy that the amount of sunlight striking the ground at noon in Texas alone would provide more than 300 times the power being generated by every single power plant in the entire world.

With Denver solar panels, you can supplement or even replace the energy you receive from traditional utility companies, giving you easy access to clean, renewable energy. Here’s how it works.

How Is Solar Energy Converted Into Useful Energy?

solarenergyMost solar energy systems fall into two categories: passive and active.

passive solar energy system uses a variety of techniques and construction designs to help your home take advantage of the sunlight that strikes it every day. Typically, passive solar systems use the heat from that day’s sunlight to heat your home at night, reducing your climate control costs. This is accomplished through the clever placement of thermal windows and other heat-collecting materials. The sun’s light is absorbed by those materials during the day, then slowly released at night to maintain comfortable temperatures.

In contrast, active solar energy systems use the sun’s light to heat a reservoir of liquid of air, then actively distributes the heated material throughout your home when it’s required. The best systems can even capture enough heat to meet your needs in the winter months.

What Are the Types of Energy That Solar Energy Is Converted Into?

Currently, solar energy systems are used to generate energy in three different ways.

Solar Thermal Energy

The passive and active solar energy systems discussed in the previous section are classic examples of solar thermal energy. In those systems, the sun’s heat is absorbed or stored in order to heat your home and water systems. In this case, the heat from the sun’s light is used directly, without being converted into a different type of energy.

Systems that use solar thermal energy rely on intelligent design and construction instead of high-tech components. For that reason, they’re often among the easiest systems to maintain and operate, although they require much more complicated steps for the initial installation. Additionally, your home needs to be well situated to capture the sun’s heat to begin with, or the system won’t be efficient enough to justify itself. Finally, solar thermal energy systems can’t be used to generate electricity.

Concentrated Solar Power

Concentrated solar power systems use the same basic principle as solar thermal energy systems, but unlike those systems, they can be used to generate actual electricity.

In a concentrated solar power system, a series of mirrors and reflective surfaces is used to gather the sunlight across an area, then focus it to be concentrated on a single point. Usually, that point is a tank filled with water or another fluid. The fluid is heated above the boiling point, and the steam that’s generated is then used to drive a turbine generator that produces electricity. In some systems that liquid can also be used to provide thermal heat, but usually concentrated solar power systems are dedicated entirely to generating electricity. The mirror array must be very large to capture enough sunlight, so concentrated solar power systems are mostly limited to industrial use instead of home installation.

Photovoltaic Solar Power Systems

homesolarpanelsPhotovoltaic systems are probably the type of solar power you’re most familiar with, and use those iconic solar power arrays to generate electricity directly from sunlight.

A photovoltaic solar power system uses an array of solar panels to generate electricity. Each panel is composed of multiple photovoltaic cells. Each cell consists of two layers of silicon that are specially treated through a process called “doping.” Afterward, one layer has a positive electrical charge while the second layer has a negative electrical charge.

When the sun strikes the photovoltaic cells, the photons in the light knock electrons in the silicon atoms loose. Because those electrons have a negative charge, they’re attracted to the positively charged layer in the solar cell, where they’re collected and then siphoned off by wires.

That flow of electrons is now usable electricity and is gathered by progressively larger wires connecting each solar cell in a panel, then each panel in the entire system. The entire system’s electricity is then wired into your home where it can be used to meet your electric needs.

Also see: How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar Panels for Your Colorado Home

The state of Colorado is a great fit for a home solar system, since its high altitude and geographical placement means it gets plenty of sun throughout the year. Installing a photovoltaic solar power system for your Colorado home can cut your energy costs while reducing your carbon footprint at the same time. That means you’ll be able to pay less for electricity, while also doing your part to combat climate change.

Are you considering adding solar panels to your Colorado home? Contact us today to learn exactly how much you will save by investing in solar energy!

EcoMark First Time Solar Panel Buyer's Guide

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