Solar Energy Panels / What is a Solar Panel?
Solar panels are devices that convert light to electricity. These devices are most often referred to as solar panels since sunlight is usually the source of light used to power these devices.
Solar panels are arrays composed of multiple solar cells. The amount of energy that individual solar cells trap and generate may be miniscule but when used to make up the arrays called solar panels their combined energy can be immense.
Using solar panels to power the average home is eminently viable with the current state of the technology. Powering remote appliances or even a whole household no longer presents insurmountable obstacles.
The cost of these alternative energy sources has also been on the decrease because of technological breakthroughs and improved methods of manufacturing. Although powering heavy industry with solar power is not feasible at the present who knows where solar energy will take us in the future.
Solar Energy Panels / What are the Different Types?
The two main forms of solar cells that are in use today are solar electricity panels and solar hot water panels. These are two entirely different technologies. Solar water heaters use the heat that is contained in sunlight mainly in the infrared band to heat water.
This technology saves the energy that is usually generated by burning fossil fuels and instead uses the sunlight which is free and available in vast amounts.
Some solar hot water heaters are used to generate electricity. The tower of power concept uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight and heat a volume of water to turn it into steam which in turn is used to power a turbine that generates electricity. However, the most common application of solar hot water heater is to just supply heated water for home use.
The other technology uses light sensitive materials to directly turn any source of light to electricity although the most common and widely available source is sunlight.
These cells work because some semiconductor materials can absorb the photons that sunlight is made up of and give off an electron. If enough sunlight falls on enough of these cells then the amount of electrons can add up to a quite respectable amount.
Solar Energy Panels / Crystalline vs Silicon
Electricity generating solar cells are further divided into two kinds: crystalline solar panels and silicon solar energy panels. These two kinds are different in the way they are manufactured but otherwise generate electricity when sunlight falls directly on them.
Crystalline panels are made by slicing crystalline silicon into extremely small circles and treating them with dopants. A dopant is an impurity element added to a crystal lattice in low concentrations in order to alter the optical/electrical properties of the crystal.
This type of treatment is the sunlight sensitive component. They are then arranged in a grid-like order and tightly packed. They are then topped with a thin layer of glass.
Silicon panels are arranged in layers instead of next to each other. Silicon solar panels tend to be more efficient and less expensive to make.
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