Solar energy is abundant and, unlike most energy sources, completely free. However, the equipment to harness and utilize the sun’s energy requires an investment and careful consideration.
Solar energy is measured in kilowatt hours. Solar energy generation capacity is measured in kilowatts.
A single kilowatt hour (kWh) equals the amount of electricity required to operate a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours.
It takes less than 10 minutes for light to travel more than 90 million miles from the sun to the Earth.
The Mojave Desert in California is home to the largest solar power plant in the world, covering 1,000 acres.
Solar energy has been in use for more than 2,700 years. In 700 B.C., glass lenses were used to make fire by magnifying the sun’s rays.
The Greeks and Romans invented passive solar designs. They constructed buildings with south-facing windows to allow the sun to heat and light indoor spaces.
French physicist A. E. Becquerel discovered solar technology in 1839.
Albert Einstein won the 1921 Nobel Prize for his theories on the photoelectric effect.
The photoelectric effect occurs when sunlight is absorbed by semiconductor and causes electrons to break loose from their atoms.
Solar cells are the basic building blocks of photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Solar cells are made up of semiconductor materials, usually silicon.
Solar cells are joined together to form solar panels.
PV systems can be connected to an electric utility grid or stand alone.
The first solar panels appeared on the market in 1956.
NASA has been using solar energy to power spaceships since 1958.
The amount of sunshine varies greatly by location. For example, Los Angeles, Calif., receives an average of 5.5 hours of sunlight per day each year, while Hamburg, Germany, receives only 2.5 hours per day.
A peak solar system rated at one kilowatt produces about 1,600 kilowatt hours per year in a sunny climate, and about 750 kilowatt hours per year in a cloudy climate.
A photovoltaic system can store energy for use during the night and on cloudy days when solar panels are combined with batteries into one integrated energy system; however, battery energy storage can add significant costs to a solar energy system.
On cloudy days, solar panels only produce about 10-20 percent of the amount produced on sunny days.
Solar panels should face south for the best results.
Components of a solar home system typically include the solar module, an inverter, wiring and support structure (sometimes called “racking”).
A typical silicon cell solar module will have a life in excess of 25 years.
Shingles or roofing must be in good shape to ensure solar panel reliability.
The Southwestern United States has the most potential for solar energy production.
Georgia ranks 10th, tied with Mississippi and South Carolina, in solar energy potential.
Average residential consumption of electricity in Georgia is about 1,150 kilowatt hours per month.
Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives is a national network of electric cooperatives across 46 states that provides resources and leverages partnerships to help member cooperatives and their employees better engage and serve their members. By working together, Touchstone Energy cooperatives stand as a source of power and information to their 32 million member-owners every day.