Solar energy is picking up fast as a preferred source of renewable energy for powering offices and residences, thus helping in preserving nature and reducing carbon footprints. Unlike water and air that are getting polluted or scarce (in some regions), solar energy from the sun is available in abundance. The sun rays can produce nearly 1,000 watts of energy for every square meter of the earth’s surface. We all have access to the solar energy as long as we have the Sun. If we use this solar energy efficiently, the need to rely on electricity for various works and the electricity bill, both would decline tremendously.
Solar energy is not new, it has been around for many decades. We have seen its usage in calculators, road signs, satellites, commercial power generation and many other applications. One important example is Solar Cooker that uses a large parabolic dish to focus the sun’s rays to create a spot of intense heat, thus using only solar energy to cook food. Recently, solar lights have also become a new and trendy way of patio decoration.
How do Solar Panels work?
Solar Panels, also known as Photovoltaic solar panels or modules, in simple words, absorb sunlight and convert them into electricity. Solar panels consist of many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. A photovoltaic module is a packaged, connected assembly of photovoltaic solar cells available in different voltages and wattages.
Solar Panels function using the solar energy produced by the sun. Every solar panel comprises of many different silicon cells or solar cells. The solar panels are installed on the rooftops to absorb maximum sunlight (photons). The silicon and the conductors present in the solar panel then convert the absorbed sunlight into Direct Current (DC) electricity which flows into the inverter.
DC is converted into AC (alternating current) with the help of the inverter, producing the electrical power we use at home. In the event of less solar power, we can always use the electricity already available through electricity boards.
Also, when the consumption of solar power is not much, residential and business customers who are making excess electricity with their solar panel systems can send it back to the grid. Sunpower offers utility billing mechanism – Net Metering that offers a credit to such customers who are sending back the excess energy produced by the solar panels to the grid.
Portable Solar Panels
Think about solar panels and a permanent installation of large and heavy equipment comes to mind. However, with the help of new technologies emerging everyday, solar panels are now much more efficient, affordable and portable. Generating electricity during a camping or RV trip is no more a dream and absolutely possible with the help of portable solar panels.
Being portable makes these solar panels smaller in size and may have additional features like a foldable design or a carrying case.
To use with a regular appliance, you need to connect your portable solar panel with a charge controller to regulate the power output. Also, a reliable, deep-cycle battery and inverter are required to convert the power output.
Flexible Solar Panels
As the name suggests, flexible solar panels are lightweight and versatile in nature. They can be rolled and folded, making them less fragile and easy to transport. They perform well in low light conditions too.
Flexible solar panels are manufactured using printing machines that use a roll-to-roll method, producing approximately 100 meters of layered film per minute.
These panels are available in a variety of sizes to meet every need. They can be used for RV’s, autos and boats due to their portable nature. Flexible solar panels are useful for various expeditions such as hiking, cycling, kayaking and climbing. They can be used to charge solar batteries too and are great for creating your own solar chargers, products or portable power systems.
Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes like generating electricity in areas without access to the energy grid; it can be used to distill water in places with no or limited access to clean water; solar energy can be used to heat water using a solar thermal collector.
Even though solar energy is weather dependent, there are ways to store the energy and use it during outages. Powerwall by Tesla is one such example of continuous power supply during outages.
At Green Schools Green Future, we aim to build green schools with such solar panels that will power our computers, help in heating water and keep interiors warm through solar energy powered windows. We aim to build the schools with green technology and environmentally-sustainable building materials, thus reducing the carbon footprints.
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By Manali Arora