Solar energy is a familiar phrase that most of us are growing accustomed to every day, and the harnessing and application of this energy source are constantly increasing. We can say that this is a welcome development; however, many people do not know how all these works. Making it normal to see people ask questions such as how does a solar panel or generator work?
This article is designed to provide answers to that question as well as show how solar generators perform, their merits and demerits when compared to generators with other energy sources with major emphasis on fossil fuel powered generators.
First of all, before we delve deeper, a brief look at solar energy is needed. Solar energy is the energy that is derived from the sun, and it can be converted into electrical and mechanical energy through the use of solar cells which are also known as photovoltaic cells.
These cells work when their electrons are excited by photons. Photons are particles that originate from light sources such as the sun, can travel through light and move at the speed of light.
How Do Photovoltaic (PV) Cells Work?
Photovoltaic cells are arguably the most important components present in solar panels, and they are made from semiconductive materials such as silicon that can receive these photons coming from the sun and convert them into meaningful energy.
However, there is more to this process. The primary semiconductive material that is used in most PV cells is silicon which is doped with two different elements, usually Phosphorus and Boron. This process of doping the semiconductive material is to create an electric field.
Boron and Phosphorus are used because they help create positive and negative charges which are essential for the flow of charges in the electric field.
The area of the silicon doped with Phosphorus gains electrons; therefore, it becomes the negative charge area because electrons carry a negative charge, and it is known as the negative terminal or n-side. The area of the silicon that is doped with baron loses an electron, making it the positively charges area of the semiconductive material, and it is also known as the positive terminal or p-side.
These dope silicon layers are placed side by side to create a junction with the layer doped with Phosphorus facing the direction of sunlight. When it absorbs photons, the electrons get excited and begin to move in one direction, causing an electrical current.
The generated electrical current is collected by metal plates which are on the sides of each PV cell. It is then transferred to wires, which in turn allows the flow of electrons in the form of electricity to a solar inverter after which it can be spread to other devices.
Solar Generators Vs Other Power sources
The acceptance of solar energy as a source of electrical power is increasing. However, before the adoption of solar power as a source of electricity in homes, and places of work, other sources of power have been present, for example, Gas generators and Diesel generators. These sources are still present and prevalent today.
The future is uncertain, but it is best to take precautions, that is why it is essential to have a backup generator just in case there is a power outage or an emergency. Some people struggle in determining the best power generator, and this is not meant to be because knowing which power generator will save one extra cost among other important stuff. Let look at how solar power generators perform against other power generators.
Solar Power Generator Vs Gas Generator
At first, when solar generators were being researched on, their output was relatively low. The first set of solar generators released commercially also had this issue. This was because the solar panels were not able to harness enough solar energy, especially on cloudy days. So, this led to a misconception about them as not being reliable.
However, as a result of constant research and breakthroughs in those researches, newer generation solar generators now have impressive output added to other advantages. These newer generators can capture solar energy better now even when the day is cloudy, and they also contain advanced materials that aid in the production electricity adequate to power a household for an extended period before the need for a recharge.
Solar generators are relatively quiet when compared to other power generators. They also do not release harmful gases into the atmosphere. You can now take some camping as there are a some portable solar panels on the market.
Gas generators, on the other hand, have been around for a long time, and they are relatively more powerful than solar generators, making them the probably choice if your devices consume much power. These generators can work for an extended period as long as there is fuel.
However, the shortcomings of gas generators are the fact that they release harmful gases into the atmosphere. They also make noise which may vary depending on the brand. You cannot use gas generators in enclosed spaces; rather, they have to be placed in open spaces so as not to inhale gases such as carbon mono oxide which is harmful to humans.
Solar generators required little maintenance when compared to gas generators which require regular maintenance as a faulty component can affect the general performance. This also increases the running costs of gas generators.
With solar generators, you don’t have to worry about buying fuel as the energy source comes from the sun, and it is free. Most of the materials used in making solar generators may not be biodegradable. Still, they don’t release harmful substances into the atmosphere, and they can be used inside the house as long as they have access to the sun.
Furthermore, some solar generators can charge their battery to last two to three days which can come handy in days in less sunny days. However, the fact that there are days where there is little to no sunshine is a significant challenge for solar generators, as their efficiency reduces drastically.
Solar generators vs Diesel generators
Diesel generators just like gas generators utilize fossil fuels such as diesel and gas to generate electricity. It has also been around for sometime before solar generators, and some people favour it over solar generators mainly because of their power.
However, the merits solar generators have over gas generators is relatively the same when it comes to diesel generators.
Understanding how solar generators work helps to remove some misconceptions about them and seeking further knowledge in this area will help people make informed decisions when they want to get these generators. Some things to consider will be the power of the generator, the power rating of the devices it is going to power, the durability of the solar generator, among others.
Although traditional generators will generate more power, they won’t work unless there is fuel, and the supply of these fuels is not infinite. In contrast, solar generators get their energy from the sun. Also, you can balance the power demand in your house by getting more solar generators. You may spend more on the short term but, this will be cost-saving in the long run.
The world is steadily tilting towards the direction of renewable energy, and solar energy is arguably the best of them all. Therefore, if you don’t have high power demand, these generators are the ideal choice.