Solar panels are by far the best applicable technology for converting solar energy to usable electricity today. With the sun available to us around the year, it is only reasonable to consider taping its energy for domestic use. Even so, the currently available photovoltaic solar cell technology is still not as efficient as desired. The cells used in most solar panels have an efficiency of about 15% to 20%. This means that only about 20% of the sun rays that reach the panel are converted to electricity.
While solar panels are still quite inefficient, they are the most affordable source of renewable energy. Further, they can be installed on a small scale, something that cannot be said about wind, geothermal or other renewable energy options. With this perspective in mind, individuals, governments and policymakers continue to push for the use of solar panels to achieve the net-zero target.
There are many interesting facts about solar panels and solar energy at large that most people do not know. According to Eco Watch, solar power holds the largest potential of all renewable energy technologies. Consequently, it must be accorded a multi-sectoral approach to bring this potential to life. Individual electricity consumers have a role to play in the journey of adopting solar energy. If you are interested in learning more about solar panels, here are nine interesting facts you should know.
Fact #1 The earth receives a continuous supply of 173,000 terawatts of solar
Even on a cloudy day, the Earth still receives an enormous amount of solar energy. Given that the sun is centrally positioned with respect to the Earth, it never stops shining. At every given point in time, the sun is releasing 173,000 terawatts of energy to the Earth. In just one hour, the energy supplied by the sun could cover the energy needs of the entire world for a year.
With this factor in view, companies are coming up with technologies for capturing solar energy for efficient home cooking. For as long as the sun shines, solar energy technologies will continue to evolve.
Fact #2 Solar panels technology is almost 150 years old
Solar panels are just starting to take root in most regions. You might be fooled to think that solar panel technology is new. On the contrary, solar panels have been around since 1883. In fact, the first photovoltaic (PV) effect was demonstrated as early as 1839 by French scientist Edmond Becquerel.
Although scientists started working on solar technology much earlier, it was until 1883 that the first solar cell was created by French scientist Charles Fritts. In 1884, the scientist installed the first solar panel on a roof in New York. In 1922, Albert Einstein was recognized with the Nobel Prize for his work on the photovoltaic effect, which revolutionized solar panel technology. However, the development of solar panels has taken a slow pace. For a long time, the world preferred fossil fuels and hydroelectric power. It was until 1954 that the first practical solar cell was developed by Bell Laboratories.
Even with the development of workable solar cells, the world has still been slow to adopt solar technology.
Fact #3 Solar panels have more uses other than just lighting
We mostly know solar panels for their ability to convert sunlight into electricity for lighting. This line of thought has made it quite difficult for most people to use solar panels. It is often thought that the electricity supplied by solar panels is not sufficient to run other domestic purposes.
Contrary to this belief, solar panels have diverse uses. They can be used to heat water for domestic use and even charge electric cars. Ideally, solar panels can perform all functions your grid connection does. However, the functions performed by a solar panel will depend on the size of your panels and location.
Fact #4 Solar panels are now a popular home improvement
Solar panels are now considered one of the most popular home improvements. A Pew Research Center survey shows that up to 39% of U.S. homeowners are considering installing solar. In the previous year, up to 8% of homeowners had installed solar panels. Interestingly, even those under the age of 30 hold a similar perspective. This is an indication that both the young and the old value solar panel installation as part of their property development.
Fact #5 You do not need planning permission to install solar panels in most regions
Due to the need to speed up solar uptake, most jurisdictions allow the installation of solar panels without the need for planning permission. However, this is only applicable to small-scale installations such as domestic roof solar. If you intend to install a commercial-scale solar system you must undergo approvals.
In most cities across the U.S., installing solar panels is not considered a new construction but rather a home remodeling project. For most such projects, you may not need planning permission.
With that in mind, some solar installation projects may need permission. For instance, if you are developing a new house with a solar panel roof, you must get a planning permit. In the U.K., solar panels are listed under Permitted Developments. In other words, you can install solar panels in the U.K. without obtaining planning permission in most localities. Even so, it is necessary to confirm with your local authorities before embarking on a solar remodeling project.
Fact #6 The solar panel industry has created millions of jobs
According to the United Nations, the renewable energy sector created over 700,000 new jobs globally in the year 2022 only. These figures are a complete contrast to what those who oppose of renewable energy tend to portray. One of the reasons why technologies such as solar panels have waited so long to be adopted is the myth that renewable energy causes the loss of jobs.
The U.K. expects to create up to 60, 000 new jobs by 2035 in the solar energy sector alone. This goes to show that solar panels do not only reduce carbon emissions but also create employment.
Fact #7 Global solar panel costs continue to drop
As the world rushes to adopt clean energy, there have been efforts to lower the cost of renewables. One area that has benefited is the solar panels sector. There are several factors that have resulted in these price drops. According to an IRENA report, solar panels have dropped in price by up to 82% in the past decade due to advanced production technology, incentives and funding from financial institutions.
Although solar panels have already experienced a significant price drop, they may still see further drops. Many institutions and governments are now funding studies that are revealing alternatives to traditional solar cells. With new and cheaper solar cell technologies coming up, it is only a matter of time before solar becomes even more efficient and cheaper.
Fact #8 Installing a solar boosts your home value
Solar panels are not only popular due to the energy they provide but also for the value they add to a home. Most people who install solar panels also think about the value it adds to their homes. A recent study by RICS on properties in the U.K. found that homes with solar panels attracted up to a 2% increase in value. The same study also found that it takes approximately 10 years to repay your solar system. Considering that most people stay in their homes for more than 10 years installing solar offers financial benefits as well. Homeowners who do not resell their homes within a decade can enjoy more than 10 years of electricity free of bills.
Fact #9 Solar panel recycling is possible
Solar panels are considered one of the best clean energy sources except for the fact that they are not fully recyclable. Most panels end up in landfills once they come to the end of their lifespan. More perturbing is the fact that they contain some toxic substances such as lead and cadmium that can harm the environment. However, solar panels are predominantly made up of silicon, which can be recycled. New findings now show that solar panel recycling is possible if necessary steps are taken.
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