The Basics of Solar Energy and How it Works
But backing up for a moment: what is solar energy? Solar energy is an alternative energy source to traditional utilities; rather than drawing from manufactured electricity, the system harnesses the natural power of sunlight to convert it into electricity. As the cost of electricity continues to climb, solar energy offers a lower-cost alternative to meet those same energy needs, hedging against the price of this commodity.
When we refer to solar energy, we are referring to a photovoltaic system. In this system, a solar cell (“photovoltaic cell”) is installed to collect the energy of sunlight and convert it into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. By putting many of these solar cells together, a solar panel is created, and these are what are affixed to roofs, out in fields, or on parking garages or carports, to collect the sun and convert it into electricity that can be used by an individual residence, a building, or an entire community. While we are hearing more about it these days, Solar is a proven technology that has been used successfully for the past many decades; over the past twenty years it has become commonplace.
Once a system is installed, you rely mainly on your low-cost energy alternative. However, you remain hooked up to the grid (which is called operating “in parallel”) so that, if one day your need exceeds the energy you have to use (for example, at night, when there is no sun to draw from), you can easily draw from (higher-priced) traditional utilities.
Solar Energy- Who Benefits
Solar thermal technology is compelling in that it can provide cost savings on projects of all sizes. Whether you are providing energy to simply heat a residential pool, or if you are establishing a solar energy system for a major corporation, solar systems are scalable and customized by quality engineers and builders to ensure that you save in a way that is appropriate for you.
Residential energy pricing being so high makes it an ideal user of solar energy. However, solar also makes great sense for corporations, governments, or others who constantly need significant amounts of electricity (think: hotel, cable company, etc).
To make sure you benefit as much as possible from the decision to use solar energy, check that you are eligible for tax incentives. President Obama signed into law an act in December 2010 that will extend renewable energy tax credits; at this point, the tax grant has been extended another year (from 2010) and the tax credit is good through 2016. In some states, the cost reduction from incentives and tax benefits can reach 70 percent!
Solar energy is a financially savvy choice for many, offering a customized solution to meet your energy needs. And it’s worth mentioning that the use of natural, renewable energy also has a positive effect on the environment. Traditional power plants release CO2, NOx, and Sox into the air; solar does not. Some might say that alone makes solar energy priceless.