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Solar Power: Home Electricity

Solar power is an excellent source for electricity generation, particularly for home-owners with relatively low energy usage. If used in conjunction with energy efficient light-bulbs and a sensible attitude to the use of appliances, solar-generated electricity can be an incredibly effective source of power.

Solar Panels

Solar electricity is quite straightforward in terms of technology and has been around for several decades. The energy of the sun is harnessed by a solar panel which is comprised of photovoltaic cells, sometimes referred to as solar cells. These photovoltaic cells are the structures which are used to convert the sun's rays into a usable power source. In basic terms, the photovoltaic cells contain electrons which are stimulated by photons in the sunlight. The electrons become agitated and start to move around energetically, and this in turn creates electricity.

The panels, usually with the help of a small generator, collect and convert this electricity for use in buildings, to charge batteries, or to power appliances. Although solar electricity is obviously much easier to generate in climates with high numbers of cloudless days, recent advances in the technology have made solar panels suitably efficient for use even in cold climate areas such as the United Kingdom.

What System Will You Need?

The size and number of panels you will need for your home will depend on your energy requirements and your expectations for the system. If you are only expecting the system to power your outdoor lighting, for instance, you should be able to get by on a small system. If you would like to be able to power your whole home you will need a significantly larger system - you can calculate just how large by taking from your electricity bill the amount of kWh (kilowatt hours) you use per day and comparing this to the total amount of kWh that the panels you have in mind can generate.

It's important to take into account your climate and where you have space to place the panels. It may be necessary to invest in tracking systems for your panels (these track the path of the sun throughout the day, maximising the generation of electricity) as well as a battery bank for storing excess energy in case of cloudy days.

Selling Surplus Electricity

Solar panels for electricity generation can be incredibly effective when used on a large scale, and as such many countries are now using solar panel farms to harness energy. This does not mean that solar electricity is not suitable for home use although the power required to service an entire household may be too great for the capacity of the panels installed. As such it is always advisable to diversify your modes of electricity generation, using solar panels in conjunction with other technologies such as hydro or wind power.

If your system generates more electricity than you can use it is possible to sell your excess back into the mains grid, although this will require wiring your solar panelling into the grid and notifying your utility company of your intentions. Your mains supplier may request that you install a particular brand of inverter and monitoring system and that you set up a provider account with them.