How does solar power work?

Using abundant natural resources for better energy

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is an unlimited source of free energy that can be converted into electricity using a range of ever-improving techniques. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are currently the most widespread type of solar PV technology, however other types of solar PV are being developed that can be integrated into buildings, such as flexible PV and even PV paint. Have a look at the great work of Heliatek.

According to the International Energy Agency, renewable power capacity is set to expand by 50% between 2019 and 2024, led by solar PV. Solar energy could account for as much as 16% of total electricity production by 2050 (compared to 1.8% in 2016).

That’s why companies like ENGIE are investing in solar energy, an inexhaustible energy source with low CO2 emissions which sustainably meets our emerging energy needs.

How does a solar panel work?

Solar panels use sunlight to produce energy. Interestingly, they need the light, not the heat, and it’s common for panels to become less effective in extreme heat.

Solar panels have a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, glass casing, and wiring to allow current to flow from the silicon cells. Silicon is semi-conductive so it can absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. When light is absorbed by a silicon cell, it causes electrons to start moving, which initiates a flow of electric current. This is known as the “photovoltaic effect”. Here is how the process works:

Pros

  • It’s a free, renewable and readily available resource
  • It does not produce any pollutants and is one of the cleanest sources of energy
  • It’s easy to install
  • No noise or chemical pollution occurs during energy production
  • Low maintenance

Cons

  • Energy can only be produced during daylight hours – that’s why we’re investing in storage solutions
  • The amount of sunlight available depends on location, time of day, time of year and weather conditions
  • Needs lots of space – Roughly 2 hectares of land is required to install 1 megawatt-peak (MWp) of ground panels
There’s enough solar energy every hour to meet the Earth’s power needs for an entire year
There are more solar panels than people in Australia
Solar panels last about 40 years
The first ever solar cell was built in 1954 by Bell Laboratories
Australia has the highest average solar radiation of any continent in the world




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