The solar power fad: What is solar power?

The world has gone mad for solar power and panels, with governments throwing money at solar schemes left, right and center while celebrities espouse the qualities of this seemingly magical green energy source. Although you’re probably sharp enough to realize that solar power must mean that the sun is involved in the power generating process, you might be keen to learn more about this increasingly popular energy source.

Solar power systems use a series of photovoltaic (PV) cells contained within a flat, shiny panel. The cells are made up of two charged layers, in balance, wrapped inside a semi-conductive material like silicon. When sunlight hits the cells, the balanced charged layers are knocked out of sync: this causes electrons to move between the layers, generating an electrical current and voila – solar power is created.

So now you know how it works, what’s all the fuss about? Firstly, no harmful chemicals or emissions are created by PV cells as they generate electricity, although a small carbon footprint is made in the solar panel’s manufacture. This makes solar power an extremely green, if not 100 per cent natural, source of energy.

Another contribution solar power makes to the earth is that it is one of the most portable and least cumbersome forms of energy around. Wind and wave power require those two things, along with complicated generators, in order to create energy. Similarly, if you want to use fossil fuels such as gas on the go then you’ll have to carry canisters with you. To use solar power on the move, all you need is a solar panel kit and the sun, so whether you’re in the heart of New York City, the middle of the Sahara or in a disaster relief zone, you can rely on solar power. This is not only handy for western world travelers – it’s also allowed electricity to be brought to areas that would otherwise go without, or have to use expensive fossil fuels.

If you care more about dollars and cents than environmental sense, solar power’s money saving and making elements might be of more interest to you than its green credentials. Although the initial outlay of solar power installation is still fairly expensive, once they’re in there is no cost of maintenance or monthly power bills to pay. Plus, the panels can be hooked up to the main power grid, allowing you to sell any excess energy you generate back to energy suppliers. With solar power, you’ll be seeing more than one type of green benefit flashing before your eyes.

So you see, there’s a reason that solar power has become the next big thing in energy. Will you be joining the solar revolution?

Jessica is a solar energy fanatic, with a passion for discovering new ways to utilise the sun’s rays effectively in today’s world. She works for Solar Contact, a company which sources solar installers, and loves finding new ways to go green.

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