Solar powered technology relies on solar power being generated using photovoltaic (PV) panels to capture sunlight and generate electricity. Solar PV panels are relatively new and developed as a primary power source during the early days of the space race. Their use has spread from developed to Third-world countries and remote areas where they can be used to generate power anywhere there is direct sunlight and the means to harness it.
What is solar energy? When it’s daylight, the rays from the sun are available to be harnessed as energy, even when it’s cloudy and dull. Although early solar panels were inefficient on dull days, modern day technologies enable enough energy to be captured by solar panels – whatever the weather – and this enables solar panels to power domestic homes, businesses, roadside emergency signs, hospital, military and aviation equipment, plus a host of other equipment.
Solar technologies are broadly characterised as either passive or active, depending upon the way they capture, convert and distribute solar energy. PV solar panels are classed as an active technique. A photovoltaic (PV) solar system uses thin solar panels containing a layer of crystals made of copper-indium-gallium-selenide (older solar technologies used to use silicon crystals, which is why they were more expensive), which captures sunlight and converts it into electric current using what is termed the photoelectric effect (discovered by Albert Einstein in the early 1900s). Solar panels are normally located high up and in a place where they are in direct sunlight and not shaded, such as a rooftop or the top of any suitable static structure attached to (or within close proximity) that which it is intended to power (house/ roadside sign/office building).
What is solar power? The earth receives enough solar energy from the sun in one day to power every device and electrical installation on it for a whole year. Cost is the reason why solar is only now becoming a mainstream technology. Although the very first development of solar power using panels was in the 1800s, the technology has been in development in commercially viable application since only the 1970s and until now, high development costs have made it non-commercial as a mainstream technology. It has been cheaper to use oil and fossil fuels as our primary sources of energy than to use Solar.
In recent years, that has changed in many parts of the world as manufacturers have developed less expensive and more commercially viable systems and products and governments and commercial companies around the globe have starting introducing initiatives (like Feed-In-Tariffs – FITs) and grants to make the installation of solar more affordable and viable as a renewable power source.