An Electric Current Is Flowing In A Long Wire Learning About Solar in Steps

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Learning About Solar in Steps

As I approached many people about how to teach kids how solar energy works, I realized more and more that adults need some answers too.

One of the main questions I get about everything from home solar panels to solar garden lights and water pumps is “How long can solar power run my lights, pumps, house, etc.”

There are different answers depending on your own situation, for example if so what type of battery storage are you using? For solar garden lights you have a battery in the light that recharges in the sunlight during the day and discharges to light at night. After several cloudy days, the lights dim. However, with more energy storage or a second battery, the light will last longer.

There are a few variables when considering other things like solar home systems, solar powered water pumps and portable solar battery chargers. However, energy storage in batteries is still important to how your solar panels serve you.

Everything comes in stages. For years we knew that there was electricity when we plugged it into a wall socket, a wire ran through a home or business, and we didn’t think about how energy was created unless we worked for a power company. With new and improved energy we are entering an era where we are not only moving towards more environmentally friendly energy but also becoming our own energy hubs. More questions are being asked by the general public about self-supply of energy than ever before. This is a great opportunity for all of us to become more conscious and independent about our energy use. Everyone has an opportunity to participate.

What makes a solar panel work? Photo voltaic solar panels are made of materials called semiconductors. When light hits the panel, the light is absorbed into the semiconductor, and the energy knocks electrons loose, allowing them to flow freely. An electric field forces the freely flowing electrons to move in a particular direction. Metal contacts placed at the top of the cell allow us to draw that current for use in our homes and businesses.

Now if we stop here, you might be thinking that when the sun doesn’t rise, we won’t be able to use solar energy. That’s where batteries or power storage come in.

Really sunny days will give you a lot of energy. Sometimes more than your current needs, so a storage container or battery or batteries must be used. The simplest storage for energy is the power grid. What you don’t need someone else does. This is called net metering; You sell your excess electricity back to the electricity company. Then when you need power, you get it from them.

Battery storage is another expensive way to store solar energy but if you are not connected to the power grid you have to go the same way. The type and number of batteries you need will depend on your individual circumstances. These are the basics of solar power, and you can rely on this information as solar panels become increasingly efficient. A few years ago they used only the red rays of the sun. Recently panels are now using other colors (think rainbow).

In step 2 we can talk more about solar energy and the types of solar panels available.

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