Before we delve into the myths surrounding solar energy and solar panels, it is imperative that we first understand the concept of solar energy, the ways it can be harnessed, how it can contribute towards checking the increasingly deteriorating environment and benefit mankind as a whole.
Solar energy in itself is nothing but the radiant light and heat that the come from the Sun. Now, this energy emanating from the Sun, at any given time, is all around our planet because half the earth’s surface is facing the Sun at all times, anyways.
Solar Energy, therefore, has existed since the very beginning of time – from the time the Sun and the Earth have been in existence. It is right here on our planet available for us. It is left to us whether we harness this readily available energy all around us or let it go to waste and continue using the more expensive and harmful ways of generating energy for our daily needs; our existence, in fact.
The continuing use of fossil fuel: oil, gas, and coal to meet our power and electricity needs, is not only more expensive to procure, ever depleting, and labor extensive, it has also been damaging the real environment and the ecosystem we depend on for our survival. It is the major contributor to air pollution, the greenhouse effect, rising sea levels, climatic changes – global warming in general – a growing concern for environmentalists and scientists the world over.
Although humans have been harnessing the Sun’s energy or solar energy since time immemorial, it is now, in this century, and to some extent the latter part of last century, that a range of technologies for harnessing this freely renewable source of power have developed and is ever evolving.
Solar Power, simply put, is converting the solar energy that we have just spoken about, into electricity using different technologies to harness it and use it for electricity and power generation.
The purpose is not to confuse with too many technicalities but to have a generic idea of the technologies involved in the generation of solar power.
One of two basic methodologies to convert the Sun’s light into electricity is the photovoltaic method (PV). A photovoltaic cell is a device that has the capacity to convert sunlight into electric current using the photovoltaic effect. To put it differently, this is a direct conversion of sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic cells – basically, solar panels, explained later in a little more detail.
The other is the indirect method using concentrated solar energy. This technology involves the use of lenses or mirrors of different shapes and dimensions and tracking systems – to redirect a large area of sunlight into a concentrated beam of powerful light. The heat from the beam turns the steam-driven turbines and electricity is generated; hence, the indirect method.
Again, let’s try and be as simple about this as possible. A modern Solar Panel is a specially designed panel; a packaged panel that has the capacity to absorb the Sun’s light and convert it into power for our electric and heating requirements.
A typical modern solar panel is the photovoltaic module – an assembly of 6X10 photovoltaic solar cells. It is the photovoltaic array of a PV system that generates and supplies electricity to meet our residential and commercial needs.
Despite the advancements made in the area of Solar Power generation and supply, myths still exist among some people – one may wonder why, with all that have already been written and said about, by experts in the field.
The most common ones that we still get to her about and the reality behind it are listed below:
* Solar Panels are not suitable for cold climates – Says who? As a matter of fact most solar panels work better in cold climatic conditions; of course, as long as it’s sunny. The cold acts as a catalyst in increasing the conductivity of electricity – it makes the flow faster and more efficient.
It can be a slight disadvantage in hotter regions because the panels get heated up faster thereby resulting in decreased efficiency. Less power will be generated for the same amount of light received in colder conditions.
However, solar energy still remains a better option than the nonrenewable ones that have been detrimental to humans in many respects especially the environment.
* I should wait before I invest in Solar Power as the technology may improve in the future – This is another myth that has been doing the rounds for some time now. While technology is constantly evolving and growing, the existing ones are advanced enough to nip this myth in the bud.
* A Tracking System is required to follow the angle of the Sun making the installation costlier – When companies that specialize in solar panels install a system, they position the panels in ways that maximize exposure of the panels to sunlight, thereby cutting off the need to install a tracking system.
However, in some of the latest Solar Panels, tracking systems are integrated to adjust the position of the panel as the Sun moves all through the day. This additional expense is not worth it as the gain in efficiency is hardly proportionate to the increase in cost.
* Solar Panels require constant maintenance – On the contrary, solar arrays are designed to be durable with minimal maintenance requirements. There are companies that offer lifetime warranties for their systems and others recommend, or may even include, annual maintenance checks in a package deal.
* Damage to roofs – This is again a misconception in that Solar Panels are installed by trained professionals who are experts in installing these panels irrespective of the roof types – roofs of any pitch or angle – without damaging the roof. On the contrary, solar panels can potentially extend the life of the roof by protecting it from the elements.
Moreover, these professionals generally leave a gap between the roof and these lightweight panels at the time of installation for improved air circulation. The weight of the panels would more or less be the same as another tier of shingles on the roof.
* Solar panels are not designed for snowy or cloudy conditions – It is true that the quantum of power can reduce, but Solar Panels can still work efficiently enough under these circumstances. In areas prone to snowfalls, the panels are angled in ways so that snow slides off the surface of the panels not allowing accumulation of excess snow.
Under rainy conditions, the rainwater helps in clearing debris from the panels adding to the efficiency and performance. While Germany gets almost half the amount of sunlight compared to the hottest city in the United States, the country possesses one of the “most successful solar initiatives” in the world.
There are many other myths about solar panels that are not even worth taking into consideration as with knowledge and more information being provided by manufacturers and installers, they are changing, and there is definitely an increased awareness among people about solar energy and its advantages.
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