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What exactly is solar energy?

Solar energy is derived from the power of the sun and it’s a clean, sustainable and environmentally friendly way to generate electricity and heat. Let’s explore what solar energy is and how it works.

The source of solar energy

At the heart of solar energy is our sun. The sun turns about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, releasing huge amounts of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation includes visible light, infrared and ultraviolet rays, and it’s this radiant energy that we harness as solar power.

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How solar panels work

Solar panels are the primary tools for converting sunlight into electricity. These panels are made of semiconductor materials which have unique properties.

Solar panels contain solar cells, each composed of layers of semiconductor material. When sunlight hits these cells, the energy from the photons is absorbed by the semiconductor. This absorbed energy energises the electrons in the semiconductor, allowing them to move freely. The movement of these electrons creates an electric current.

Conductive metal plates on the sides of the solar cells capture this current and direct it as usable electricity. The generated direct current (DC) is then converted into alternating current (AC) by an inverter. AC is the type of electricity used to power homes and businesses. Solar panel installers Bath can give you help and advice on solar panel installation.

Types of solar energy

There are two types of solar energy, photovoltaic and solar thermal systems. Photovoltaics directly convert sunlight into electricity, making them suitable for powering homes and businesses.

Solar thermal systems use sunlight to heat a fluid which produces steam that drives a generator to create electricity. These are often used in large-scale power plants.

Advantages of solar energy

Solar energy is renewable, reduces electricity bills and has a low environmental impact and operating costs. It is easy to find solar panel installers in Bath and many other areas of the UK.

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Disadvantages of solar power

Solar energy is an intermittent energy source which depends on sunlight. There are also upfront installation costs to be considered.