Solar energy, how do you generate it?

Solar energy, how do you generate it?

August 17, 2021 Off By Rob Prosser

Solar energy is the radiant energy that the sun gives off. This energy consists of both heat and light. The heat energy can be used especially in summer and when the weather is nice. Energy from light can always be generated. Also in winter, and even in our rainy and cloudy country. 

Generate your own solar energy

There are various options for generating or converting solar energy yourself. The best-known and most widely used ways of generating or converting solar energy are:

  • Using solar collectors in combination with a solar boiler
  • Installing solar panels
  • Storing solar energy in a (home) battery

Generating solar energy with solar collectors

Solar collectors convert the sun’s energy into heat. The operation is simple. A solar collector heats up when it is exposed to the sun for a long time. This heat will be used, for example, to heat tap water or a room. Most solar collectors are black, so they can absorb more energy.

Usually, solar collectors are combined with solar boilers. In this way, they form a complete system with which the water in your house can be heated with the heat of the sun.

Generating solar energy with solar panels

When you talk about generating solar energy, most people immediately think of solar panels. Solar panels are used to convert the energy from the sun’s light into electricity.

Solar panels consist of a large number of solar cells, which in turn consist of two layers, a positive and a negative layer. Under the influence of light, an electric current flows between these two layers. The heat from the sun, therefore, has no influence on this process. The generated power can then be used or stored.

Solar cells are also called photovoltaic cells, after the Greek word for light, photos, and the name for electric current, volts. The abbreviation for photovoltaic panels is PV panels. When you read something about solar panels or about PV panels, in principle the same is always meant.

Storing solar energy

You can also store the generated solar energy that you do not use and use at a later time. The best-known method is stored in batteries. You can hang this home battery – about the size of a central heating boiler – on the wall, put it in the basement or install it in the garage. With a home battery, you can supply a house with power for about one to several days. 

The use of home batteries has become increasingly interesting in recent years because these devices are now reasonably affordable. If you want to use a home battery, the inverter connected to your solar panels must also support this (hybrid inverter).

The benefits of solar energy

Switching (partially) to solar energy has many advantages. Where one person purchases solar panels with a view to environmental gain and sustainability, the other buys solar panels to be less dependent on energy companies. However, a large proportion of people install panels for one clear reason: they want to save money.

  • Saving money
    In the long run, panels are a profitable investment, which means you can save a lot of money.
  • Contributing to a better environment
    With panels you reduce your CO 2 emissions
  • Less dependence on the energy supplier Many people want to be less dependent on the large energy companies (and their price increases!)
  • Less dependence on fossil fuels
    Fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce and therefore more expensive
  • Sustainability
    Solar panels last 30-40 years and are therefore a very sustainable investment
  • Low maintenance
    Solar panels are, apart from an occasional cleaning, low maintenance
  • Silent way of generating energy
    Solar panels (unlike rotating windmills) do not make any noise
  • Taking advantage of government subsidies
    Many people buy solar panels because they want to take advantage of a local subsidy

The disadvantages of solar energy

Solar energy does not only offer advantages. There are also disadvantages, the main ones are:

  • The initial purchase & installation
    costs The initial costs are by far the biggest reason for most people not to purchase and install solar panels. However, it is good to know that it is also possible to lease panels. This way you are not stuck with the high start-up costs.
  • Location not always suitable 
    Not every location is equally suitable. For example, houses that are surrounded by many trees and therefore have more shade will yield less return than detached houses.
  • Solar energy can only be used during the day.
    To remedy this, it is also possible to install a storage system, so that the surplus of energy generated during the day can be used in the evening and at night.
  • The appearance of the solar panels
    Not everyone finds the classic blue or black solar panel equally beautiful. The appearance of a roof with solar panels could therefore be a disadvantage for some. Yet this group is small. Various studies have now shown that having solar panels can lead to a significant increase in home value. In fact, when looking for a new home , 44 percent of buyers indicate that they would rather buy a house with solar panels.

    Meanwhile, the solar panels are also becoming more and more beautiful. How about custom-made PV panels in all kinds of colours, prints or even logos? Even transparent solar panels are now possible. 

Summarizing

Solar energy consists of both heat and light. This energy – released by the sun – can be generated by itself. With the help of solar collectors or solar panels, the heat can be used to heat tap water or a room, for example. Even when it’s cloudy, solar panels can convert energy into light. The energy that you do not use can be stored and used at a later time. 

Solar energy has several advantages. For example, installing a solar panel is a sustainable and profitable investment. In addition, the emission of CO 2 is reduced with panels. You are also less dependent on energy suppliers and fossil fuels. Solar panels are low maintenance and make no noise. Finally, you can benefit from government subsidies with a solar panel.

Another article on this blog that may interest you:

Solar panels or Photovoltaics, Which is better?