Components of a Solar Panel System
Each component of a solar electric system works to help convert the energy of sunlight into the type of energy that will run the electronic devices found in our homes.
The electricity that comes out of the outlets in our homes is alternating current (AC). Alternating current is needed to maintain the force of the electricity after it travels the long distance from the power plant to your home. The electrical units in our home are designed to operate on AC current.
However, the electricity generated by solar cells in a solar panel is in the form of direct current (DC). Direct current does not have as much force as alternating current but the distance from your roof to your appliances is short. Therefore, this form of electricity can be used to power a home or business.
Nevertheless, your electronic devices still need alternating current in order to work. So the solar electric system must convert the direct current, which is put out by the solar panels, into alternating current in order for your lights, computers, TVs, etc. to work.
Technically, the sun is the first component of the solar electric system. This is the source of the energy that will be converted to the type of power we need.
When the sun is behind a cloud, little or no energy is available to the system. At night, of course, your energy source is on the other side of the world. However, a properly configured solar electric system takes this into account and will provide your home with the power it needs even on gray days and during the night.
Inside every solar panel are hundreds of little solar cells that chemically turn energy from sunlight rays into a small amount of electricity. Each cell contributes to the whole until enough electricity is generated to be of use to the home or business owner.
Fewer solar panels are needed to run a few appliances in a small home than are need to run a large home or business. This is why you sometimes see a small bank of eight or ten solar panels. Whereas at other times, there are dozens or even hundreds of panels. It all depends on how much electricity is needed in a particular situation.
Solar panels must be secure so that wind and snow do not move them away from facing the sun. A stationary mounting system, designed especially for the size of solar panels being used, fastens the panels to the roof or a platform on the ground.
A more sophisticated mounting system is capable of turning slowly, following the sun as it moves across the sky. This allows each solar cell to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight, thereby optimizing the panels’ electricity output.
The charge controller’s function is to regulate the amount of electricity moving forward through the solar electric system.
The electricity produced by the solar cells inside the solar panel travel by wire to the charge controller. The amount of electricity can vary due to weather conditions. For example, on a particularly sunny day or when the sun is reflecting off snow, the solar cells can produce more than the normal amount of electricity. The charge controller’s job is to regulate the amount of electricity flowing into the rest of the system so that surges do not cause damage to other components or appliances.
As previously pointed out, there are times of the day and night when the sun is not shining on the solar panels. However, a homeowner would not be pleased if his devices worked well when the sun was out and then shut down when the sun went behind a cloud or dropped down over the horizon in the evening.
To solve this problem, batteries are used to store some of the electricity which is produced during sunlit hours. During non-sunny periods, the system draws on this stored electricity to power the home’s electrical devices.
Auxiliary power can also come from the utility power grid or a backup generator.
Nearly every electronic device in the home is designed to run off alternating current. However, the electricity coming from the solar panels and the batteries is in the form of direct current. An inverter solves this problem by changing the electricity’s form from direct current to alternating current.
Devices Powered by Electricity
The device that need to be powered by electricity is the final component in the solar electric system. Each device requires a different amount of electricity in order to run properly. For example, a laptop computer requires less power to operate than an electric heater. A light bulb needs less electricity than a vacuum cleaner.
The types of devices, the amount of electricity they need to operate and how many will be running at the same time will dictate how much electricity your solar system must generate.
As you can see, the solar electric system is not complicated. There are only a few components that work together to draw power from sunlight and convert it to the type of electricity that lights, appliances and electronic gadgets need to turn on and run smoothly.
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