HOW IT WORKS
Solar energy—power from the sun—is a vast and inexhaustible resource. Solar technologies tap directly into the infinite power of the sun and use that energy to produce heat, light, and power. Although many types of solar electric systems are available today, they all consist of basically three main items: modules that convert sunlight into electricity; inverters that convert that electricity into alternating current so it can be used by most household appliances; and possibly or sometimes batteries that store excess electricity produced by the system. Today’s modules can be built into glass skylights and walls. Some modules resemble traditional roof shingles, but they generate electricity, and some come with built-in inverters. The solar modules available today are more efficient and versatile than ever before.
WHAT THE MARKET LOOKS LIKE
During the last decade, a strong solar electric market has emerged for powering urban grid-connected homes and buildings as a result of advances in solar technology along with global changes in electric industry restructuring. Figures show that renewable energy is increasingly cost-competitive, with solar in particular rapidly approaching parity with fossil-fuel generation. They suggest also that investors are growing weary of increasingly volatile fossil fuel markets according to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.
Electricity generated from solar energy cannot be produced in the dark. Solar panels rely on significant levels of sunlight to operate efficiently and therefore are unable to produce electricity in the darkness of the night sky. This problem can be enhanced in countries that have shorter days at different times of the year but can also be mitigated by introducing a battery system that’s able to store any electricity generated by solar panels during the day for use during the night. The efficiency of solar energy can also be impacted by temperature. A climate can be too cold or even too hot for a solar panel to operate efficiently as most panels have thresholds when it comes to operating temperatures.
One of the main disadvantages is the high cost of the equipment used to harness solar energy. Domestic solar panels still remain a costly option for generating electricity for your home whilst large scale solar power plants can cost vast amounts to build. Although installing solar power technologies requires a high upfront investment, solar panels will often deliver a return on investment (ROI) after a set space of time due to reduced energy bills and the possibility of selling excess electricity back to the grid. This process however can take many years to complete and some systems (especially those involving older technologies) will never see a return on investment. When it comes to large scale solar power stations, it’s often noted that the power output of such installations is often significantly less than that of power stations running on fossil fuels.
Feed in tariffs are available as the main financial incentive to encourage uptake of renewable electricity-generating technologies in the solar sector.