What is Solar Power?
Solar radiation is a form of energy called solar energy which is a combination of light energy and heat energy. The sun reaches the earth by radiation and using solar energy to do work is termed solar power or insolation.
Solar power is therefore the conversion of solar energy from the sun into electricity (or thermal energy or mechanical energy), either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination of the two.
We use solar power for many purposes both for industrial use and home use. In this post, we will discuss more on the reasons why we use solar power at home.
Solar power is a clean, renewable and sustainable source of power that will likely replace the use of fossil fuels or reduce its use to the barest minimum.
History of Solar Power
Solar power has long been used for sun-drying agricultural produce, our garments, and has been a great source of energy for the earth.
The earliest development of solar technologies started in the 1860s, mainly because of fear that coal will soon become unavailable for use as a source of power.
He noted that the photovoltaic array can produce a continuous current despite the intensity of sunlight.
About three (3) decades later, scientists at Bell Laboratories revisited the photovoltaic technology in 1953 and tried using silicon to produce solar cells.
They questioned how the weather impacted the solar cells and wanted to find a way to increase the amount of electricity produced.
The increasing availability of coal and petroleum in the early 20th century stagnated the growth of solar technologies and it was recorded that, in 1974, only six (6) homes in North America had functional solar power systems.
Between 1960s and 1980s, the installations of photovoltaic systems featuring solar cells was very expensive for public use.
Nonetheless, it was Dr Elliot Berman, backed by Exxon mobile, who made solar technology more affordable by making use of low grade silicon and low grade packaging.
Between 1990s and 2010s, residential and commercial rooftop solar as well as utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) power stations began to accelerate again due to supply issues with oil and natural gas, global warming concerns, and the improving economic position of PV relative to other energy technologies.
For several years, worldwide growth of solar PV was driven by European deployment, but has since shifted to Asia, especially China and Japan.
There are other growing number of countries all over the world that has adopted the use of solar power including, but not limited to, Australia, Canada, Chile, India, Israel, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States.
China and India has the most solar installations. In 2017, solar power provided 1.7% of total worldwide electricity production, growing up to 35% from the previous year.
As of 2018, the unsubsidised leveled cost of electricity for utility-scale solar power is around $43/MWh.
The International Energy Agency projected in 2014 that under its “high renewables” scenario, by 2050, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power would contribute about 16 and 11 percent, respectively, of the worldwide electricity consumption, and solar would be the world’s largest source of electricity.
How is Solar Power Generated
As defined earlier, solar power is the use of the sun’s energy either directly as thermal energy (heat) or through the use of photovoltaic (sunlight) cells in solar panels and transparent photovoltaic glass to generate electricity.
This means that solar power can be generated in more than one way. One popular and usual way is by the photovoltaic effect. Other ways that solar power can be generated are:
- Concentrated solar power generation
- Solar heating and cooling
Photovoltaic cells (PVC) converts light into electric current using the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic effect exists when a material is capable of generating voltage and electric current upon exposure to light.
It is a physical and chemical phenomenon.The photovoltaic effect was first discovered in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel.
Using photovoltaics to generate solar power may require the generated power to be first stored in a solar battery for on-demand use.
They are also necessary to be stored, in order to make provision for times when the sun is not available to hit the PVC (solar panels).
Photovoltaic cells is the most ubiquitous method of generating solar power both for commercial purposes and home use. It is simple to install and it is easily scalable.
Concentrated solar power:
Concentrated solar power makes use of large lenses, mirrors and solar tracking system to produce a high intensity beams that can be channeled to desired use.
The channeled beam is used mainly in solar power plant to bring water to a super heated temperature which is used to turn turbines used for electricity generation.
The solar power plant is similar to the thermal power plant or nuclear power plant. The major difference is that the source of heat for solar plant is the sun.
Unlike photovoltaic cell, the concentrated solar power plant is not applicable for use directly in residential or commercial building.
Solar heating and cooling
Some households use solar power for heating and cooling method. It is purely about tapping the thermal power of the sun.
This can be employed in drying our clothes, agricultural produce, timber and other products.
It can also be used to heat our homes, make swimming pools hot and purify water for drinking. Solar heating and cooling is an emerging technology that will be prevalent as the world embraces solar technologies more.
Other Sources of Renewable Energy
As we use solar power at home for many reasons, there are other renewable technologies that will be worthy of note in this article.
They have similar characteristics as the solar energy- (clean, inexhaustible, sustainable, renewable, and environmentally friendly). The renewable energy sources can also be termed, “alternative energy resources”.
The other renewable energy sources that are also popular like the solar power include;
- Wind energy
- Hydro energy
- Tidal energy
- Geothermal energy
- Biomass energy
Just like solar power, the energy content of these natural energy sources are inexhaustible, clean, sustainable and eco-friendly.
The wind energy is harnessed using a wind turbine which turns a generator. The generator produces electricity.
Hydroelectric energy is comes from flowing water which also turns a turbine that in turn, rotates the generator.
Tidal energy is tapped from waves in the ocean while geothermal and biomass energy are generated from hot springs in geothermal regions and catalytic anaerobic decomposition of matter respectively.
25 Reasons Why We Use Solar Power at Home
Apart from the obvious reasons of using renewable energy sources like reducing the emission of green house gases, cutting down environmental pollution and living a sustainable life style, there are other reasons why we use solar power at home.
Here they are:
- Solar power is a natural source of energy for heating our homes:
We use solar power to heat our homes in a few ways.
Either by building our houses with enough glass windows to allow sunlight and heat to pass easily or by using the solar water heating system to heat water that is piped round the house.
The position of the building towards the sun is also a determining factor on the amount of sunlight that will be received by a given building.
- We use solar power to dry our clothes
The sun provides a natural means of drying our clothes and cut down on electricity bills that would have been spent on using a dryer.
The average electric dryer is a massive energy hog, accounting for two (2) percent of the total energy consumption in the United States.
Even though you have the money to spend on bills without sweating it, its still a wise choice to use solar power from the sun to dry your clothes and cut down on your carbon footprint.
- We use solar power to treat water
World health organisation reports that over 844 million people lack access to a clean drinking water and 2 billion people drink water from a contaminated water source.
This results in an estimated death rate of 502,000 people.
Solar power can be used to treat these water sources, making them contaminant free. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can also kill germs, and make water safe to drink.
- To cut down on electricity bills.
Electricity bills can cut deep holes in our pockets. Despite our budget plans to mitigate electricity use over the month, these bills keep coming.
Choosing to use solar power eases this tension and can save you lots of money in the long run. It offsets your cost even to zero depending on the size of your solar power system.
Check with your locale solar power installation guidelines before proceeding with solar installation in your house.
- Solar power technology is easy to maintain
Once installed, solar power system may not need maintenance for up to 5 yrs (depending on the quality of your system).
Because the panels are installed on the roof, they follow the same profile as the roof; allowing rain, dirt and dust to be washed off easily.
Solar PVC are durable enough to last up to 25 yrs once there is no physical damage to the surface of the panels.
- We use solar power because its clean
Studies show that between 2000 and 2065, it is estimated that the Earth will lose more species of plants and animals to extinction than in the previous 65 million years combined.
That will become our fate if we continue to use fossil fuels that emit green house gases.
To curb this, use solar power because it provides us with a 100% clean energy resources that is comparable with the hydro electric power systems.
They do not produce smoke or release toxic substances to the environment that are responsible for global warming.
- We use solar power because it is a long term investment
Solar investments have the potential to generate average annual expected returns on investment of between 6.6% and 10.1% over the next 35 years in the USA.
The IEA forecasts that renewable energy will grow at 50% per annum over the next 5 years, of which 60% is attributed to solar.
To put this into perspective, this increase in energy generation is equivalent to the total current power capacity of the United States.
Installing a residential PV system will benefit you on the long run and in 5 years time, you must have gotten your ROI from energy savings.
- Solar power is affordable.
You should use solar power at home because its affordable. The cost of solar panels have dropped dramatically in recent years, falling more than 70% in just the last decade.
In addition, the cost of home solar batteries have dropped substantially as well.
A recent financial report titled “New Energy Outlook” from Bloomberg New Energy (BNE) predicts that the cost of solar energy will fall even more over the next 10 -15 years; making it one of the world’s cheapest and attractive energy sources.
- Solar power is a renewable energy source
Solar power comes from inexhaustible resource (the sun) that is sustainable unlike fossil fuels that are finite. It is also a non-polluting energy source as it does not emit any greenhouse gases when producing electricity.
With increasing advances in solar power technologies, humans will continue to harness this energy source in better, easier and cheaper ways, making solar the fastest growing renewable energy source globally.
- Solar power is safe
Residential solar PV systems are safe, since they do not need transmission lines that travel over long distances. They are installed usually on the roof.
They are considered to have same safety standard as other home appliances like the refrigerators and air conditioners.
When installed properly, solar power system will not cause fires. A claim backed by a 2013 German study concluded that; only 0.006% of the 1.3 million photovoltaic systems in the country at the time caused a fire.
Some renewable energy sources such as nuclear power may release pollutants in water water and land which posses environmental issues.
Solar power on the other hand eliminates these unsafe, unclean consequences from the conventional fossil fuels.
- Solar power is flexible and scalable
Solar power can be used on a large scale to power an entire factory. It can also be used as a power source for a device as small as a calculator. This makes it available for use in many applications.
- We use solar power because its portable
Portability ensures that you can move solar power generating sets and devices from one location to the other.
Solar power generators and devices such as solar powered touch-light can be charged under the sun during the day, and then used at night.
- Solar power is good for the environment
Use of solar power is one of the easiest and most practical ways of contributing to a sustainable future.
It would have been more fun if we could join the plant-a-tree campaign rally, or scout the forest for illegal poachers in a bid to support sustainable living, but that is not so easy to come by.
What is fairly easy is installing a solar power system in your home and contribute to sustainable living.
That way, you would have contributed to the reduction of 1.5 tons of carbon footprints on earth every year.
- Solar power systems are durable
Use solar power systems because they are durable. The panels can last up to 25 years and battery can be available for use upto 5 years.
Using the system that long would have yielded a good return on your investment.
- Solar power systems can make you some money
In some states, electricity suppliers are required to source a portion of their electricity from solar generators.
Rather than investing in installing solar power systems of their own, they choose to buy from willing sellers in applicable states. This has resulted in what is called an SREC market.
So, if your system is consistently generating more energy than you are consuming, you have the opportunity to sell that energy back at a premium to the energy company.
This is only applicable in some locale
- We use solar power so as to be ahead of the curve
Renewable and clean energy will take over the future of the energy market. The signs are everywhere as most fossil and dirty energy companies are feeling the heat already.
Using solar power at home will support the economy and keep the economy ahead in the list of sustainable countries’ curve.
The U.S. has risen to the 4th highest users of solar power PV systems. China is leading while Germany and Japan follows (as seen in the chart below) in cumulative solar capacity.
- Portable devices are charged by solar power
Solar power can be used on small portable devices like power banks for charging phones and other devices. They are used to power outdoor security camera, street lights and portable refrigerators. The list is numerous to mention.
- We use solar power because its noiseless
Unlike the wind power and hydroelectric power, solar power does not cause noise pollution or cause physical damage to the environment. Its a new-age electric power source – clean, renewable and noiseless!
- We use solar because of the freedom.
No electricity taxes! That is one of the joys that comes from using solar power system. The energy companies will no longer be on your neck every now and then – that’s something to be happy about.
- Solar power is limitless
According to astronomers, the sun will last for five billion years more. If you want to find a technology with long-term availability, look no further. Solar power is the answer.
On top of that, sunlight is free. The only costs involved if you own a solar PV system are the initial investment and periodic maintenance.
Our solar system will start saving you money the moment it’s switched on, but the benefits of solar power run well into the future.
- Feeling of commitment to sustainability
Sustainable living should be enshrined in the core values of everyone. The sustainable development goals of 2015 highlighted the importance of adopting alternative energy sources.
Solar power is one energy source that will give you fulfillment and a sense of duty towards sustainability.
- Use solar power to increase value of your property
Installing solar power in your property automatically increases its worth and price. Many buyers will feel more attracted to buy a house if they notice that a home solar power is installed. We all think its a cool technology!
- Solar power can create jobs
More than 50 million people globally are employed by one solar power company or the other. This new job niche is becoming vast even in both developed and developing countries like India, South Africa and Brazil.
- Solar power can help combat climate change
Climate change has been a trending topic for a long time. The emission from fossil fuels contains gaseous substances that affects the planet.
Ozone layer depletion is caused by; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrobromoflurocarbons (HBFCs), halons, Carbon dioxide, etc.
Though carbon dioxide has no direct damaging effect, it still contributes its quota. When the ozone layer is depleted, more sunshine enters the earth surface and raises the temperature of the earth.
This results in adverse climatic changes which we notice today. We use solar power so as to replace the fossil fuels and eliminate ozone depleting substances.
- Solar power reduces reliance on oil and coal for electricity production
The huge dependence on oil and coal for electricity generation can be an alarming. Most power generation companies are being supplied the fossil fuel for running the plant using a truck that is running on fossil fuel.
That is a huge amount of non-renewable energy resource in circulation. Using solar will reduce carbon footprint generated by these unconventional means to zero.
Investing in solar power will give you leverage over your electricity billing company. There would be huge reduction in the bill you pay or even eliminated completely depending on your locale.
Apart from the financial benefits, there is also a satisfaction you gain if you use solar power in your home – contribution to a green environment and sustainable future for the generations unborn.