Solar Panels Offer Real Energy Alternatives

solar panels uk

According to the British government, 4 million homes across the country will be powered by solar panels with in the next eight years, and there are currently over 230,000 solar projects underway in the UK, representing 750 megawatts. While the United Kingdom has lower levels of insolation – the measure of solar radiation received by a surface – that many other countries in the world, high wind speeds in much of the country help to keep a solar panel cool, allowing them to operate much more efficiently than in extremely warm climates, and the southern portion of the United Kingdom is comparable to Germany in the amount of solar radiation it receives, notable because Germany has one of the largest solar panel markets in the world.

Solar panels, sometimes known as solar cells or photovoltaic modules, are collections of photovoltaic cells used to capture light energy – also called photons – and convert it into electric energy. The basis for the process is the “photovoltaic effect” in which electrons are released when light hits a solar panel surface and are then transferred between different layers in material, resulting in a buildup of voltage.

All solar panels are able to generate a finite amount of electricity and are typically connected to multiple other panels in order to maximize energy gain. A standard setup will include panels, an inverter, possibly a battery and wiring to connect all panels. Most solar cells extremely thin layers of crystal in order to capture sunlight including silicon or cadmium-telluride based materials. The cells can be connected in either series or parallel in order to generate the required amount of current and voltage, but must be kept safe from both physical damage and moisture, as these can degrade performance. Most panels are rigid and cover significant surface area, but flexible options are now being marketed. It is also essential that all solar panels have diodes in place to prevent reverse currents, which not only waste power but can cause cells to overload and burn out.

Although solar power uses sunlight to generate electricity, current panels are not able to utilize all parts of the sun’s energy. Ultraviolet, infrared and diffused light cannot be captured by a solar panel, and the best conversion rate for sunlight to energy achieved in commercial enterprise is 21%. One potential solution to this problem is to split light into different wavelengths and then beam it to cells designed specifically for those wavelengths. In theory, this could raise energy conversion rates by over 50%.

Many countries are now embarking on solar cell projects in order to move away from fossil fuel use and take advantage of the sun’s free and abundant resource. Countries such as Qatar have made significant strides in solar power use and the country hopes to have the first entirely solar-powered city within the decade.

Although solar panels technology is still in its infancy, it offers the very real potential to be the world’s next large energy source. Flexible, transparent solar cells on office buildings or homes could reduce or eliminate the need for current electricity sources and high-efficiency designs could be used to power the next generation of space travel.

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