A Guide to Solar Panel Technology
Earth needs solar power now more than ever. With billions of people inhabiting the planet, solar energy is the best way to preserve the environment and protect it from problems like global warming and scarcity of natural resources. Solar panel technology is an innovative alternative of powering up homes, offices, factories, schools, cars, buses, trains, and other structures that need a steady supply of electricity.
How Solar Power Helps the Environment
Solar panels use the sun’s natural and infinite power, thanks to tiny, energy-absorbing cells. Transforming the direct current (DC) electricity from the sun into alternating current (AC) electricity is all it takes to enable individuals and organizations to use solar power.
This is a stark contrast to using fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil. These sources of energy require the burning of fuels, producing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases are destructive for the environment because they tend to stay in and heat the earth’s atmosphere, leading to global warming.
It is believed that global warming contributes to problems like climate change, a phenomenon where temperature and rainfall patterns become erratic. When this happens, the rest of the ecosystem may suffer—glaciers melt, sea levels rise, and plants and flowers experience a shift in blooming times.
Another way that the environment benefits from solar energy is through the reduction of air pollution. Since there’s no need to burn fossil fuels, the air stays clean and free from toxic substances. Plus, electric vehicles will be more commonplace as they replace traditional cars, which are one of the sources of harmful CO2 emissions.
Tapping the sun’s energy also doesn’t involve digging under the earth’s surface where reserves of coal or oil lie. There’s also no threat of killing fish and other marine life through oil spillage in the oceans.
By going solar, the world’s dependence on fossil fuels will decrease. This move is also necessary in making sure that these natural resources aren’t depleted quickly and that the next generations will have a cleaner and more sustainable place to live in.
Things You Should Know About Solar Panels
Solar panels are composed of the following components:
- Solar cells or photovoltaic (PV) cells—These are tiny cells that have a thin semiconductor wafer made from one layer of positively charged silicon, while the other layer is negatively charged.
- Metal frame—This serves as mounting points, as well as protection for the edges of the glass laminate.
- Glass casing—This sheet of tempered glass at the front of solar panels protects the solar or PV cells against damaging external factors like rain, snow, dirt, or hail.
- Wiring—The wiring allows the electric current from the solar cells to flow. Single panels that use 50 watts of power need a standard 12V wire, while multiple panels require a bus or combiner wire to connect the panels.
There are three major types of solar panels, namely monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each of these types has distinct characteristics and features that can help determine which one is the most suitable for your needs.
Monocrystalline (mono) solar panels are made up of a single crystal of pure and high-grade silicon, which is then cut into wafers to make solar cells. This type of solar panels is capable of producing high power outputs, lasts long, and looks aesthetically pleasing with its black color. However, these features make monocrystalline solar panels pricier than the other two types.
As its name suggests, polycrystalline solar panels (poly panels) are composed of fragments of silicon crystals. Raw silicon is melted, poured into a square mold, and cut into wafers—a process that lets you maximize the silicon and lowers the price of poly panels. The solar cells in poly panels have a bluish color due to the sunlight bouncing off the silicon fragments.
In terms of efficiency, polycrystalline panels are not the most ideal because of their low silicon quality and tendency to deteriorate in higher-than-normal temperatures. Plus, with low efficiency levels, you’ll need more space to accommodate more poly panels.
The last type is called thin-film solar cells (TFSCs) because they can be made from a variety of PV materials, not just silicon. For example, some TFSCs use cadmium or copper.
TFSCs offer a lot of advantages for users, including a slim look, cost-efficient materials, short production time, and usability across different applications.
On the downside, TFSCs are the least efficient type of solar panels, so you need to have the space to put up more solar panels before you can come up with high energy outputs. They also have short warranty periods, so you should reconsider your options if you want to use solar panels for the long term.
Solar Power and the Environment
Solar power can provide the world’s energy needs in an eco-friendly way. By making yourself aware of what solar panel technology can do for the environment and your day-to-day life, it shouldn’t take long for you to want to go solar.
Enrique Hormillo is a Business Development Executive at SolarNRG Philippines. Its parent company, SolarNRG Netherlands is one of the largest suppliers and installers of solar power system in Europe.
Enrique’s experience stretches beyond business development as he also works as a Marketing Director for a motorsport store — further solidifying his business acumen.