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solar energy converted into electricity

How is Solar Energy Converted into Electricity?

In many ways, solar energy is the cleanest, most reliable source of renewable energy available, and it can be used to power your home or business in several ways. With solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, the sun’s rays are converted into electricity by stimulating electrons in silicon cells with photons of light from the sun. You can then use this electricity to supply your home or business with renewable energy.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is energy derived from the sun. The sun produces solar energy in the form of heat and light. The sun is one of the most readily available and renewable sources of energy on earth. Because it is abundant, free, and doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s one of the most important non-conventional energy sources.

Throughout ancient history, people have used solar energy to heat wood with heat produced by beams of light concentrated by magnifying glasses. In general, solar energy can be converted into heat energy or electricity.

How Solar Energy Is Converted to Electricity?

The first step in converting solar energy to electricity is to install photovoltaic (PV) cells or solar cells. Photovoltaic means both light and  electricity. The cells capture the sun’s energy and convert it  into electricity. Solar cells make use of materials that have a photovoltaic effect. Thus, when solar rays strike a Photovoltaic cell, the photons in the light trigger electrons inside the cell to start flowing, resulting in electricity.

Here is a stepwise approach towards the way  how solar panels make electricity:

STEP 1: The Sunlight Activates The Panels

Every panel is composed of silicon cells, a frame made of metal, a casing of glass, and special wiring.  In order to achieve maximum effect, the panels are arranged in an “array” (an ordered series) on roofs or large outdoor spaces.  At daylight, photovoltaic cells, often referred to as solar cells, absorb sunlight.  

STEP 2: Cells Generate Electricity

Solar cells contain a thin semiconductor wafer made of two layers of silicon. An electric field is formed when one layer is positively charged and the other negatively charged. Solar photovoltaic cells are powered by sunlight, which energizes the cells and causes electrons to be released from atoms inside the semiconductors. Due to the electric field surrounding the wafer, loose electrons are set in motion, which causes an electrical current to flow. 

STEP 3: The Electrical Energy Is Converted

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity efficiently, but the electricity generated is direct current electricity, which is not the type of electricity that power most homes, which is alternating current electricity. With an inverter device, DC electricity can be easily changed into AC electricity. Modern solar systems use either one inverter for the entire system or individual microinverters attached behind the panels.

STEP 4: Electricity Converted From the Grid Powers Your Home

A solar panel converts solar energy from DC to AC electricity, which is then distributed throughout the house to power your appliances. This system works in exactly the same way as the electricity generated by your electric utility company, so nothing in your home needs to be changed. As long as you still have a connection to your traditional power company, you have access to additional power from the grid to fill in any solar shortages.

STEP 5: A Net Meter Measures Usage

Solar shingles may not be able to capture enough sunlight to provide you with energy on cloudy and overnight days; conversely, in the middle of the day when no one is home, they may collect excess energy. It is for this reason that a meter is used to measure electricity moving in both directions – to and from your home. If you return any surplus power to the grid, your utility company will often give credit for it. This is known as net metering.

Conclusion

Solar energy is one of the most sustainable and cleanest renewable sources of energy out of all those available, but it has some environmental consequences. Solar energy is produced by photovoltaic cells. The manufacturing of photovoltaic cells to produce that energy, however, requires silicon and generates some waste.

The improper handling of these materials may result in hazardous exposure to humans and the environment. Solar power plants may require a large piece of land, which could negatively impact existing ecosystems. Solar panels convert solar energy into electricity without polluting the air. It is abundant and does not contribute to global warming.

 

what is net metering in solar system

What is Net Metering in Solar System

The net metering system credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they generate. For example, a PV system installed on a residential roof may generate more electricity during daylight hours than the household uses. During the night or other periods when a home’s electricity consumption exceeds the system’s capacity, the electricity meter will run backward to give the customer a credit.

The customer is only billed for the “net” amount of energy used. About 20-40% of solar power systems’ output goes into the grid, and this electrical energy is exported to nearby customers.

More simply, net metering is a utility billing mechanism that allows residential and business customers to receive a credit if they generate excess electricity with their solar panel systems and send it back to the grid.

According to SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association)

Net metering is the practice of allowing residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed the surplus electricity back into the grid. Net metering laws have been passed in many states. In other states, utilities may offer  net metering programs voluntarily or in response to regulatory decisions.”

How Does Net Metering Work?

Net Monitoring

During the afternoon, when many people aren’t at home using electricity, solar energy systems typically produce the most electricity. The morning and evening are typically the peak times when homes use electricity. With net metering, you can account for these ups and downs in your electricity production and usage on a day-to-day basis.

When your system produces more electricity than you need, excess electricity is fed into your utility’s grid. Your meter actually runs in reverse when this happens. Whenever your system isn’t producing enough electricity, you can draw it from your utility company, just as you did before you went solar.

The “back-and-forth” between your system and the grid allows you to use your excess production and meet any shortages. Net metering allows you to cover your lack of production with the excess electricity you generate.

Over the course of a month, if your solar power system generates more electricity than it uses, you will receive a credit on your utility bill based on how much electricity you gave back to the grid. You must purchase electricity from your utility if your production is less than what you use each month. Typically, you would pay for the electricity you use minus any excess electricity generated by your solar panels.

Net Bill = [Units Exported + Incentives (if any)] – Units Imported 

Net metering’s Benefits

  • Net metering has many benefits as it relieves all residential and commercial electricity billing issues on a regular basis with this new and advanced technology.
  • Net metering allows you to save when you go solar
  • Due to net metering, homeowners receive credit for the energy their solar panels generate at the same rate they pay to their utility. In turn, your solar energy system could save you thousands of dollars in electricity costs over its lifetime.
  • Since your solar panel generates electricity close to where it will be used, it puts less pressure on the grid’s distribution and transmission networks and eliminates energy loss due to voltage transmission over long distances. While some argue that net metering imposes an unfair burden on non-solar electricity consumers, several cost-benefit analyses have shown the exact opposite.
  • Giving Customers Control Over Their Electricity Bills (Reduced electricity bills)
  • Creating Jobs & Encouraging Private Investment
  • Protecting the Electric Grid
  • Benefit for the environment
  • No need to install an expensive battery storage system
  • Take some pressure off electric grids
  • Encourages customers to move towards renewable energy
  • Preserves natural energy resources
Hybrid Solar Inverter

Hybrid Solar Inverter (Types, Pros, Cons)

Hybrid solar systems work similarly to grid-tied solar systems, but they use hybrid batteries and inverters to store energy. Most hybrid systems can also serve as backup power sources in a blackout as a result of storing energy, similar to a UPS system.

It used to refer to a combination of two different sources, such as wind and solar, but currently in the solar world the term ‘hybrid’ refers to a system that combines both solar and storage as well as being connected to the electricity grid.

What is a Battery Ready System?

Instead of a string solar inverter, battery ready systems use a hybrid inverter. Nowadays, hybrid inverters include a charger and connection for the battery, which will make it much easier to add a battery in the future. It is however more expensive to install hybrid inverters and if you don’t include batteries when installing the system, finding compatible batteries may become difficult.

Is a hybrid inverter necessary to add batteries?

No. Any existing grid-tied solar system can be upgraded to include a battery at any time using a ‘AC battery system’. More and more AC batteries, such as the Tesla Powerwall 2, are becoming available. Inverter and battery technology are developing rapidly, so investing in a battery-ready system may not always be a good idea if you intend to leave the battery in the system within 2 years. In light of the fact that battery technology is advancing rapidly, if you delay adding batteries, your system might become obsolete.

What is the purpose of storing solar energy in a battery?

The solar feed-in tariff (money or credit received for feeding solar energy to the grid) has been reduced by many governments and network operators. Therefore, traditional grid-feed solar systems lose their appeal because most people are not home during the day and therefore cannot use the solar energy as it is generated, so it is fed into the grid at no or very little profit.

During a blackout, a solar hybrid system will provide back-up power to store excess solar power. It is perfect for homeowners, but for most businesses that operate during daylight hours, a grid-fed solar system remains the most economical choice.

Self-consumption involves the ability to store your solar energy and use it when desired. The solar power system works exactly like a typical off-grid system, except that the battery capacity needed is far less than with a typical off-grid system, usually enough for peak consumption (8 hours or less) as opposed to 3-5 days.

Advantages of Hybrid Systems

  • You can use solar power or cheaper electric power at off-peak times to store excess electricity.
  • Utilizes stored solar energy during peak evening hours (known as self-use or load-shifting).
  • Backup power is available in most hybrid inverters.
  • Reduces grid energy consumption (reduces demand)
  • Energy management (peak shaving) using advanced technology.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Systems

  • The cost is higher mainly because of the price of batteries.
  • Longer payback time – Greater return on investment
  • Complex installations require more space and cost more to install.
  • Typically, batteries last between 7 and 15 years.

Depending on the type of hybrid inverter and its capabilities, backup power may limit the number of appliances you can run at once.

Types of Hybrid Systems 

There are four main types of hybrid systems:

  • Basic hybrid inverters (no backup power)
  • Multi-mode hybrid inverter (with backup power)
  • All-in-one battery energy storage systems (BESS)
  • Advanced AC-coupled systems (off-grid or hybrid)

Hybrid solar systems are the most energy-efficient when they use a simple hybrid inverter which consists of a solar inverter and battery inverter/charger together with smart controls which determine the most efficient use of your available energy.

The larger BESS systems consist of an inverter combined with lithium batteries in a package about the size of a refrigerator. Hybrid systems offer a wide range of features and capabilities that differentiate them from other appliances.

1. Basic hybrid inverter (no back-up)

The simplest hybrid solar inverter works similarly to a grid-fed system but also allows storage of solar energy in batteries for self-use. Inverters of this type do not contain a grid isolation device, which means they are unable to supply power during a blackout. The simple hybrid inverter would be the best economical choice if grid stability is not an issue.

2. Multi-mode hybrid inverter with back-up

Multi-mode inverters have backup power capabilities either built-in or as separate add-on units. When running normally, it supplies power to the house (designated power circuits), charges the batteries, and any surplus power can be fed back into the grid. The unit automatically switches over to the backup battery if there is a blackout or grid failure (in usually less than a minute).

3. All-in-one battery energy storage system

In recent years, hybrid inverters have been packaged with batteries in one complete unit. This is referred to as a BESS or Battery Energy Storage System. It can be retrofitted to a home that already has a solar system. These systems come in different sizes and are typically about the size of a medium refrigerator.

4. AC-coupled hybrid and Off-grid systems

In the past, most hybrid systems comprised two inverters that worked together to form an AC coupled system: Standard solar inverters and multi-mode interactive inverters. An interactive inverter is usually either a unit from the same brand, or it is compatible with the solar inverter to optimise battery charging.

A high level of power management is required for off-grid and hybrid systems with advanced AC coupled systems. Interactive inverters tend to be more expensive than all-in-one inverters due to the additional features and advanced software, but in many applications, they are more reliable, more efficient, and allow future expansion.

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