Solar electric technology converts sunlight directly into electricity. It works any time the sun is shining, but more electricity is produced when the light is more intense (i.e., a sunny day) and is striking the solar electric modules directly (e.g., when the rays of sunlight are perpendicular to the solar electric modules). Solar electric technology does not use the sun’s heat to make electricity; instead, solar electric produces electricity directly from the electrons freed by the interaction of sunlight with semiconductor materials in the solar electric cells.
The basic building blocks of solar electric technology is the solar “cell.” Solar electric cells are wired together to produce a solar electric “module,” ranging in power output from about 10 watts to 300 watts. A solar electric system tied to the utility grid consists of one or more solar electric modules connected to an inverter. The inverter changes the system’s direct-current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC), which is compatible with the utility grid and able to power devices such as lights, appliances, computers, and televisions. Batteries may be included in the system to provide back-up power in case the utility experiences a power outage.
There are several factors in determining the amount of electricity a solar panel unit will generate, some are fixed and some vary, depending on location and time. Fortunately, all factors are predictable, making buying and using solar technologies a safe investment. The 5 key factors in determining a solar system are:
- Panel’s Maximum Output
- Weather Conditions
- Time of Day
- Equatorial Distance
- Installed Tilt Angle
The advantage of solar energy technology is that it has been around for many years. This enables EST to predict how effective solar panels will be. All the factors, both fixed and variable, can be calculated based on historical data, and provide an accurate picture of a solar systems’ future energy generation. This is significant in calculating the time to return on investment.
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