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The basics of solar power.

Solar power is probably the cleanest, most viable form of renewable energy available and it can be used in several forms to help power your house. Many gardens now use solar lights or solar garden water features. The availability and wide use of solar power in gardens shows exactly how versatile it is as a source of energy. The technology and the systems are becoming smaller, more compact and better looking than when they were first created and used. Early examples of solar power systems can be seen in California where, in the 1980s, enough solar power panels were installed to power over 10 million homes.

“There are several ways to use solar power around the house... and not just for powering.”

How do photovoltaic panels work?

Simply put photovoltaic panels and other forms of solar energy work by converting some of the energy in sunlight into a clean form of electricity that can be used in our houses. The PV cells consist of a positive and a negative slice of silicon placed under a thin slice of glass. As the photons of the sunlight beat down onto the PV cell they knock the electrons off the silicon. The negatively charged electrons are attracted to the silicon but are trapped by the magnetic field that is formed from the opposing fields. Small wires on the silicon catch these electrons and when connected in a circuit an electric current is formed. This reaction gives Direct Current electricity though, and it must be passed through an inverter to be converted into an Alternating Current used in our homes to power any electrical items. Some of the power is lost in this part of the process as the inverter is only around 95% efficient but this is a much greater efficiency than was once available.

The nature of the PV cell means there is little or no maintenance required and there are no moving parts; this means that a typical PV cell can last up to 40 years with no work besides an annual cleaning.

How can I use them to power my house?

There are several ways to use solar power around the house and not just for powering. You can use it to heat your hot water, heat your pool or even your central heating or if you have plenty of roof space and a reasonable amount of sun you can get a grid tie system; a grid tie system means that not only can you power your entire house but during those times when you create an excess of electricity you can sell it back to the grid. An efficiently solar powered home will be able to reasonably create between 75 and 100% of their own power and because of the grid tie system this means you may not have to pay for electricity ever again.

How does solar power work at night?

The fact that solar panels can only gather sunlight during the day is often touted as a major drawback to solar power. However, it is possible to draw the power off into a battery source for later use. In fact, this is the way outdoor solar lights work-- they draw energy during the day to power nighttime illumination.

How does solar power work towards a better environment?

Solar power provides eco-friendly energy by not producing any harmful emissions or hazardous waste. In addition to that, it is a renewable resource. In fact, it is more self-replenishing than even other renewable energy options. There is nothing the human species could do right now to exhaust it.

Wind turbines are another renewable energy source known for being very loud. Installation of this big machinery frightens animals away. This audio disruption is called, noise pollution and its negative effects on ecosystems has been researched and documented.

Solar technology, on the other hand, is silent to use.

The production of biofuels is another renewable energy option. It involves transforming recently deceased biological material, called biomass, into a useable fuel. Currently, corn is used in the United States to create ethanol. This puts fuel and food in direct competition. The use of solar power creates no such competition. In fact, there is no need to process the sunlight into a useable fuel. The rays from the sun hit the earth regardless of whether or not we use it. There is no need to grow sunlight or treat it with chemicals. The only processing necessary can be done with simple solar cells, which are built into solar technology.

Fossil fuels are currently used for most of the world population's energy needs. On top of their bad effects on the environment, such as greenhouse gases, they are a finite resource. It is easy to see why using any renewable energy option would be a wiser and safer alternative. However, solar power does stand out among even these wiser choices because of the extra advantages it provides for the environment.