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What are the facts about solar energy and how it works?

By definition solar is derived from Latin for "sun." The sun is the largest energy power plant in our corner of the universe and gives off about 1,000 watts of energy per square yard of rays that hit the earth. That can power a lot of hairdryers in Hollywood and elsewhere if you have panels up and running. How it works as a "free" source of light energy that can be converted into electricity is quite ingenious.

How Solar Energy Works

And it is gaining popularity because it is a renewable source of energy.

Put simply, most of the time when sunbeams land on a substance, it heats up. It's different when sunbeams hit a solar panel. In lieu of heat it turns the light into an electrical current, which can be tapped for energy consumption.

The kind of solar panels people use for their home are called photovoltaic solar panels, which are made up of a bunch of photovoltaic cells wired together. Photovoltaic cells convert light (photo) into electricity (voltaic). The most popular type are called polycrystalline solar panels.

They work using semiconductor silicon chips like a computer does, but in a special way mixed with other elements and layered together. This produces a direct current (DC) when the light hits the cells, which then has to be converted in to AC (alternating Current) because that is what we use for electric power for large things.

The process of converting the electricity is handled through an inverter, which turns DC into AC that can power anything you want at home, at work, or at play.

It all starts like a dance. Similar to how a person is moved to dance when they hear the right music, electrons in a photovoltaic cell are moved to dance when light hits them. Their dance is routed along a path and voila, you have electricity!

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This photoelectric phenomenon was first discovered in 1839 by the French physicist Edmund Bequerel. He realized that some stuff would produce a little electric current when light was shined on it. Dinner probably sat cold that evening as he played with his newfound love.

Photovoltaic solar panels were first utilized on space rockets. Later, scientists advanced the technology and solar panels became more efficient. Enough so that now the average person can take advantage of them.

What is the future of solar power? Fossil fuels are becoming more expensive to produce the energy we need and solar power and other types of clean energy are a great alternative. The demand for more and more electricity is emerging all over the world and solar power is a viable way to meet that demand.

The price to produce solar energy is about one hundredth of what it was 40 years ago.

If an abundance of energy is produced, (more than you need) the excess is sent back to the grid that everyone else is hooked up to and you make money. That is if you own the solar panels. If you don't own them you don't make money from the excess. You also don't make any money of you are "off the grid."

Many panels only give you energy while the sun shines. At night or in severely cloudy or rainy type weather you have to use power from the utility company grid.

Some people offset this by hooking up electricity storage batteries to their panels, but very few people on-the-grid in America do it this way.

If you really want a deep understanding the video below gives a 23 minute exact and detailed explanation of how cells that it's made of work.

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