Solar energy is emitted by the sun and incident on the Earth’s surface in the form of light, heat, and other electromagnetic waves that can generate electricity. Solar energy has surpassed wind as the cheapest and most affordable form of renewable energy.
Since the dawn of industrialization, fossil-fuel-based technologies have dominated energy generation. However, diminishing energy resources and rising carbon emissions pose a serious threat to global warming, with an imminent need for a shift toward clean and renewable energy.
In pursuit of such a shift, solar power has proved to attain a sustainable future due to its immense potential. For the upcoming five years, annual solar PV capacity additions will rise, and the prices for solar manufacturing are also dropping rapidly, making it a considerable alternative to tackle global energy demand.
What is solar panel?
A device that produces electricity through sunlight by using photovoltaic (PV) cells is a solar panel. An underlying principle for the functioning of solar (PV) cells is based on the photovoltaic effect discovered by Albert Einstein in 1905, a physical process where the absorption of light by certain materials produces an external electrical current.
These materials, often made from crystalline silicon in the case of conventional solar panels, undergo a process wherein photons incident from sunlight liberate electrons from the semiconductor device, initiating the free flow of charge, which yields a direct current (DC).
Through the interconnection of multiple solar cells in series, typically ranging from 60–72 cells in a panel up to 144, forming a solar panel, which is practically used for utility purposes and can then be channeled through inverters to convert it into alternating current (AC) suitable for various electrical appliances, ranging from residential use to industrial use.
Types of solar panels
- Monocrystalline Solar Panels consist of a single crystal structure, mostly silicon. They are well known for their effectiveness and black appearance. They are the best choice for installations in areas with limited and tight spaces as they produce more power per square foot compared to other types.
- Polycrystalline Panels consist of several crystal types. They are more economical and effective than other panels. Areas with large roof spaces and people with limited financial resources can opt for this type.
- Thin-film panels are manufactured where small layers of semiconductor material are deposited onto a glass or metal substrate to create thin-film panels. They are applicable in various instances as they are light in weight and highly flexible.
How do solar panel works?
Photovoltaic cells absorb solar energy when a solar panel is exposed to the sunlight, thus creating an electrical flow on the panel. When such electrical charge is accumulated and moves in response to the internal electrical field of the cell, the panel produces energy.
Benefits of solar power
- It reduces the dependency on fossil fuels, thus contributing to ecological conservation.
- It is now affordable due to the various technological advancements that have taken place.
- It provides system stability by decentralizing power generation and broadening the energy mix
- The energy requires low maintenance, which makes it a financially stable option.
- This type of energy is durable, reliable, and performs well compared to other types.
- The production of energy entirely depends on the weather conditions as it requires sunlight. Therefore, the production of solar power is hampered by cloudy days and nights.
- It is also difficult to continuously store the energy in the form of batteries as they are expensive.
- Production of panels requires specific minerals, such as silicon and rare and toxic metals, to harm the ecological system and raise environmental questions.
- Although technological advancements have increased efficiency with time, there are various challenges faced in modern solar systems to convert sunlight into electricity.
Which country is the largest solar power user?
According to a survey conducted in 2022, China has been ranked as the world’s largest solar power user.
Which is the biggest solar plant in the world?
The largest solar power plant in the world as of 2023 is the Bhadla Solar Park, located in Rajasthan, India.
Is solar power a renewable energy?
Solar power is categorized as renewable energy, as energy can be consistently produced through the sun’s rays.