The science of how solar energy works can be easily explained if we break down the explanation into several categories. Even a person with no technical background can grasp the basics of this technology without putting much effort into it. Still, this story will only make sense if we start at the Sun as a source and work our way down.
The whole story of solar energy starts with the Sun. The solar rays are highly potent, as they carry a lot of energy divided in spectrums. Outside the Earth's atmosphere, solar rays can deliver more than 1300 watts of energy per square meter. To put this into context, the solar energy directed towards our planet within 20 days is greater than what we can produce out of Earth's total natural reserves.
Of course, some of this energy is lost on the way. The Earth's atmosphere absorbs a good portion, but we are still left with an average of 1000 watts per square meter on our planet's surface. These numbers vary a lot depending on the weather and the geographic location. Still, this is a huge amount of energy that all of us can tap into.
The question "How does solar power work?" has more than one answer, but most are looking for the explanation involving electricity. In solar PV panels, electricity is produced using the photoelectric effect of the solar rays. The photovoltaics in the panel create direct current electricity when exposed to light. Panels have inverters that convert the direct to alternate electricity and as such it arrives to the nearest electrical panel.
If you are wondering how this applies to a classic solar use scenario, we can provide a more elaborate explanation. In a classic scenario, solar electricity is combined with electricity from the grid, as the sun is not up 24/7 to produce all the energy we need.
While the sun is up, we produce even more than we can use, so the excess is shared through the utility grid. Overnight, we turn to the grid for the energy we need. All of this is regulated through the utility meter, as the meter reverses every time we supply the grid with electricity. The goal is to produce enough of an excess during the day, so we can also cover our electricity needs through the night.
Solar collectors work with the heat of the solar rays and so far, there have been several different designs that use heat in a different way. All designs look like a box with a transparent front and a black bottom. The idea is to let the light inside and then trap and repurpose the heat. Collectors are popularly used for water heating, space heating and lately space cooling as well.
In the water heating collectors, water passes through a network of tubes in the collector and absorbs the trapped heat. Similarly, space heating is achieved by pumping an alcohol and water solution through the tubes and is later circulated through a heating element.
How solar energy works to provide space cooling is a bit more complex, so we will dedicate a separate article to explain the process. If more questions pop up after reading this article, do not hesitate to contact us. We will do our best to answer them really soon.