The sun provides enough energy in one hour to supply the world’s energy needs for one year—for free. The sun’s energy is renewable and clean.
I suppose if one includes the equipment, labor, and technology required to convert solar energy into useable solar power (electricity), then the sun’s energy is not free. The energy source, the sun, is free (or at least it is until someone figures out how to claim ownership of it).
We decided to take advantage of the free, renewable, clean energy the sun provides by installing a photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof of our home. That decision required research that led to a series of posts, of which this is one.
What is Solar Power?
Solar power is the conversion of a the sun’s energy into electricity. Photovoltaics convert a portion of the sun’s electromagnetic spectrum directly into electricity. Concentrated solar power systems generate electricity indirectly by concentrating the sun’s infrared rays to create heat which drives an engine connected to an electrical power generator.
PV systems vary widely from tiny modules used to power handheld electronic devices, to rooftop solar panels that generate power for one home, to large scale arrays that produce electricity for thousands of homes and businesses. PV has many benefits:
- Clean, renewable electricity is generated directly from the sun
- Electricity can be produced right where it is used or offsite
- Arrays can be self contained or connected to the utility grid
- No moving parts
- Makes no noise
- Minimal or no maintenance required
- System will last for 20+ years
The following short video explains how photovoltaics work in a simple, easy to understand manner (way better than I could explain).
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Concentrated solar power is also known as concentrating solar power. CSP systems can be large utility-scale power plants or small systems located where the power is needed.
Check out the video below to learn how CSP works.