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Solar power is the most popular form of renewable energy, and its usage continues to grow around the US and the world. But many still do not understand how it works and if it is any different from petrol. Does solar in fact use petrol?
Petrol is not required because solar power generates electricity by converting sunlight into direct current. Whereas fossil fuels are a finite energy source, solar panels harness the sun’s energy and will always be available.
How Solar Power Works
Solar power does not need petrol or any type of fossil fuel. Solar energy is cleaner and renewable, with none of the health and environmental risks of fossil fuels.
To understand the difference, we have to take a look at how solar panels and solar power works.
Solar power turns sunlight into electricity which can be used to power your home and its appliances. The solar panels produce direct current (DC) which an inverter converts into alternating current (AC) so it can run household appliances.
Any excess power produced by the solar panel is transmitted into the grid. This earns you credits and is accessible anytime.
From Sunlight to Electricity
A solar array or solar panel kit like the Renogy Solar Kit consists of two or more solar panels. A solar panel consists of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which is why solar panels are sometimes called PV modules.
Electricity is generated when sunlight hits these PV cells. This is direct current (DC) power which does not work with most home appliances. This is where an inverter comes in, as it converts DC to AC.
After the conversion to AC, the inverter directs the electricity into a switchboard. From here the electricity is transmitted to appliances.
The switchboard ensures appliances are running on solar energy. It will only revert to the grid if there is insufficient solar power.
A net meter keeps track of how much solar power is being used and how much is exported to the grid. Your power bill accounts for this and credits your account. In case of cloudy or rainy days, you can use these credits to power your home without additional costs.
If you have devices that run on DC, you can connect them directly to solar panels. But most household appliances use AC so an inverter is required.
Once a solar panel is installed, the system runs automatically. You don’t have to turn anything on or off. Switching from grid to solar is automatic and does not need any input from you.
Solar Storage Systems
The example is how most solar powered homes in the US are set up. It is convenient and the process is automated.
However you can add a storage system to store excess solar energy. While not necessary, this gives you the chance to be totally free from the grid.
The disadvantage of grid tied homes is they are still dependent on the power company. Yes you use solar power, but if the grid goes down, your solar system shuts down automatically to protect power line technicians.
If there is a long power outage, you won’t have access to any power. This is where a storage system comes into play. By installing batteries, you can store extra solar power there and use it in case of emergency.
Solar Power and Petrol Comparison
Either way, one thing is clear. Solar power has nothing to do with petrol. Let us compare the two and why solar is seen as a replacement for petrol.
Solar energy comes from the sun. As long as the sun is there we will have access to solar energy. With solar panel efficiency on the rise, we will be able to harness more sunlight to power everything from appliances, vehicles, factories, offices etc.
Fossil fuels are going to run out at some point, somewhere between 30 to 50 years according to some studies. What happens then?
We might mine for more petrol, but these could be in difficult to access locations. And processing could take time.
The bottom line is we cannot depend on fossil fuels forever. It is about to run out, whereas solar energy use is just starting. If you have large carbon footprint, going solar is one way to reduce it. You also save dollars in the process.
Fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change. Weather becomes harder to predict as the excess heat generated by carbon dioxide affects weather patterns.
World leaders and scientists are aware of the problems caused by fossil fuels. This is why they are trying to reduce our dependency on it.
Solar power does not cause pollution. These systems run quietly and smoothly and keep the environment clean. Homes and establishments that use solar energy are helping cut back our carbon footprint.
There was a time when solar power had a prohibitive price tag. But not anymore as costs have dropped continuously the past decade.
Solar power is technology, and that means prices drop as innovation increases. Today you can set up a solar system for home or RV for just a few thousand dollars.
Governments are also offering incentives for people that install solar systems. Even components like batteries, charge controllers and inverters becoming more affordable.
Installing solar panels for home is not what you would call cheap. But it is a good investment to make. The system will pay for itself as your dependence on the grid is reduced.
Put it another way. Solar panels with solid warranties will last 25 years or so. The money you spent buying and installing the system pays for itself when you no longer receive huge bills from the power company.
Petrol vs. Solar Efficiency
Solar panels have an efficiency rating of 15% to 23%. So the best solar panels convert up to 23% of sunlight into electricity.
Those number do not look too impressive. But that is about the same efficiency rating for car fuel. Only about 20% of fuel gets used. The remaining 80% is wasted as heat. With solar power, the remaining 80% or so provides sunlight and warmth.
Solar power efficiency is also on the rise. 15% used to be standard not too long ago, and now it is up to 23%. As technology improves expect solar efficiency to go up.
Fossil fuels are just inefficient. We have to use a lot of it, generating pollution in the process. For these reasons, many are now switching to solar.
Why Solar is Better for the Long Term
There are many reasons why solar power use is on the rise. And mainly its because we cannot depend on petroleum forever. As fossil fuels become more scarce, we have to look for alternatives. And of all renewable forms of energy, solar is the most practical.
Reduce Energy Costs
If your solar system produces more energy than you use, you have zero power bills to pay. For some, just reducing their electric bill is enough. With a large enough system you can eliminate them completely.
You also save on costs because solar panels need little maintenance, and you can call a professional cleaning service and they will take care of your solar panels. You can even do this yourself.
And we are only speaking of residential homes here. Imagine how much commercial establishments and industries can save if they no longer have to pay any power bills.
Fossil Fuels are Not Sustainable
We can go through other benefits of solar power, but the one overriding fact is this. The world needs more and more energy, and we are running out of fossil fuels.
Petrol is not sustainable, period. Fossil fuels do replenish naturally, but it takes millions of years. The sooner our dependence on petrol is reduced, the better. This is not only good in terms of costs, but it is also ideal for the environment.
The world is still largely dependent on fossil fuels, but it may not be for long. Solar power costs continue to drop and efficiency is always improving. Not only is there no connection between solar power and petrol, but solar might eventually replace fossil fuels altogether.