What exactly is solar? How does it connect to the house? How can it help reduce our emissions? Let’s explore all the basics about solar today, to help set everyone—government, homebuilders, homeowners, business owners, and more—up for success in the future.
What Is Solar
At its core, solar radiation is light that is emitted by the sun. Naturally, this can vary based on location, as the amount of solar that reaches one spot on the Earth is different from another. That solar power can then be converted into thermal or electrical energy. There are two main types of solar energy technologies—PV (photovoltaic) and CSP (concentrating solar-thermal power), according to the U.S. DOE Dept. of Energy.
What’s more, the DOE says the amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year. Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through PV panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. This energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage.
The SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Assn.) says solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available, and the U.S. has some of the richest solar resources in the world. Solar technologies can harness this energy for a variety of uses, including generating electricity, providing light or a comfortable interior environment, and heating water for domestic, commercial, or industrial use.
How Solar Can Help
Solar panels are a great option to help reduce emissions as homes are expected to become the single largest consumer of electricity, surpassing industry, and therefore one of the largest contributors of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, at least these are what the analysts are reporting, and some governments are hoping, but it takes all of us to hit these targets.
Active solar devices such as photovoltaic solar panels help to provide sustainable electricity for any use. Electrical output of a solar panel is dependent on orientation, efficiency, latitude, and climate—solar gain varies even at same latitude. Typical efficiencies for commercially available PV panels range from 4% to 28%. The low efficiency of certain photovoltaic panels can significantly affect the payback period of their installation. Roofs are often angled toward the sun to allow photovoltaic panels to collect at maximum efficiency. For any solar panel, a true-south facing orientation maximizes yield. If true south is not possible, solar panels can produce adequate energy if aligned within 30° of south. However, at higher latitudes, winter energy yield will be significantly reduced for non-south orientation.
To maximize efficiency in winter, the collector should be angled above horizontal latitude + 15°. To maximize efficiency in summer, the angle should be latitude – 15°. However, for an annual maximum production, the angle of the panel above horizontal should be equal to its latitude.
Solar shingles is new technology designed to look like ordinary asphalt shingles on your roof. And what’s more is that they are even designed to be very aesthetically appealing. Perhaps even more important, they protect your roof and have the same durability and flexibility as regular shingles, while harnessing the sun’s solar energy to generate power for your home. Each solar shingle will produce between 13 and 63 watts of energy, depending on the brand of solar roof shingles. Solar shingles are lightweight and easy to install and just like ordinary shingles, they are designed to withstand rain, wind, and hail.
Solar shingles is still relatively young technology but working together in a sustainable way will help spread the word. Most people don’t understand, nor appreciate, the market potential or overall need for it. California boasts the most with some 6 million solar homes. But the sunshine success proves that it’s a harbinger for others to seize the moment to be energy progressive and adopt solar panels. This is an opportunity to work together to make a case with city officials and to get others on board with why this is important now. For instance, there are major roofing contractors in the Southeast that understand solar.
With the right incentive, this approach can encourage other regions to step up to the plate and see the benefits of solar and the pure economics of the progressive energy policies of the new decade. As more energy policies are passed, more residents need to see the viability of better energy sources for homes where electricity is cheaper for rooftops and what is on the horizon and the need to embrace new ideas. The Living Lab allows us all to openly comment as we learn together what it means to achieve more energy-efficient homes.
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