While the world’s population and energy needs are both on a rise, the governments are also being pushed to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce the impact of power generation processes on the environment.
Recent searches have also predicted that the world needs to change its energy sources from non-renewable to renewable energy sources. This is the onky way in which we can save the environment around us that is degrading really fast. So, there is a dire need of replacing the conventional energy generation methods with renewable and reliable ones like Solar energy.
While there are quite a few different types of natural energy sources like wind, water and geothermal, the most reliable and the most famous out of them is surely solar power.
In contrast to other renewable energy sources like water that are only available in specific areas, solar energy can be generated anywhere thanks to the sunlight that is available on every inch of the planet. It is also one of the cheapest ways of generating energy, and has become very popular in the recent times.
But solar panels are still under improvement, and research is being done to increase their efficiency. Currently, solar panels only have around 20% efficiency. Solar panels with efficiency reaching 40% are also available, but they are expensive and are only used in industrial applications.
Solar panels are getting better everyday thanks to all the technological advancements.
Different Types of Solar Cells
Solar panels are basically an array of interconnected solar cells mounted on a rigid metal frame to keep them together.
There solar cells are designed in such a way that they emit electrons when sunlight is shed on them. These moving electors through a circuit make electrical current. This is called the photovoltaic effect. The frame, which is mostly made out of Aluminum, is designed to keep the panel in shape in harsh weather. A glass sheet on top of the panel encloses the whole panel inside it and completes our solar panel.
The solar silicon cells used in solar panels are of three types.
- Thin Film
Monocrystalline solar cells are basically a large block of silicon made into a frame. These solar cells are said to have the highest efficiency as compared to the other types of solar cells.
Production of monocrystalline solar cells is a complex process, and so they are more expensive as compared to the other types. They have a typical black color which they are famous for.
Polycrystalline Solar Cells are made by joining multiple solar cells together. They are less efficient, and are hence cheaper as compared to monocrystalline solar panels. Silicon is melted and molded in square molds in this method.
These solar panels have a blue color they are well known for.
Thin Film Solar Cells are basically a combination of several layers of photovoltaic solar cells. Solar panels containing these cells are the cheapest, but they have lesser efficiency as compared to their counterparts.
There are various types of thin film solar panels based on the material used in their production.
Production of Solar Cells
For every type of solar panel, the starting raw material is silicon dioxide. It is passed through 8 different steps before it finally converts into a functional solar cell.
Here are brief descriptions of all the steps involved in the production of solar cells.
Purifying The Silicon
Silicon dioxide is heated in an electrical furnace in this step. Then carbon arc is used to get rid of oxygen. At the end of this process, silicon with only 1% impurity is created. This silicon can be used in various industrial applications. This silicon is still unsuitable for use in solar cells.
The 99% pure silicon is now ready to go through the next step. This silicon is further purified by passing it through the heated zone several times. This process helps in removing the impurities of silicon.
At the end if this process, you will have pure silicon.
Solar cells are made by using silicon boules. These boules are created by using a specific method. A seed crystal used in this method makes the other ones. After the process completes, the seed crystal is withdrawn from the mixture.
This step creates 100% pure silicon. Any impurities left in the silicon are left in the ingot.
Creating Silicon Wafers
After the boule has been created, a saw is used to separate silicon crystals from the boule. Around 50% of the total silicon is wasted in this process. Silicon crystals are cut in various shapes that fit perfectly into the solar panels. The wafers are then polished to remove any marks made during the cutting process.
The rough ends can also be left untouched in some cases as they are believed to increased sunlight absorption. This supposedly helps in generating more power.
Adding Some Impurity
This step runs along with the previous steps. This includes adding some quantity of boron in the silicon. This can also be done by using phosphorous.
The sunlight penetration is also allowed in these steps. The phosphorous is still in the testing phase.
Setting The Electrical System
This process is very simple. All of the solar cells prepared in the previous processes are connected with electrical wires in this process. The wires used in this process should be thin enough to not block much sunlight. After connecting, the solar cells are connected with thin stripes.
Coating to Prevent Reflection
The shiny nature of silicon causes 35% of the sunlight to reflect back from the surface, and this can decrease the efficiency of solar panel. That is why a coating is applied on the silicon to prevent reflection. Various types of chemicals are used in this process for coating.
The coating condenses over the silicon wafer to complete the process.
Protecting The Wafers
After all the above mentioned processes, the almost done solar panel is packed in silicon rubber. The connected solar cells are now packed in the aluminum panel. A glass sheet is then applied on top to cover the panel.
The end product of this process is a solar panel.
Once the solar panels are ready, testing is performed on them to confirm if they are working efficiently. A flash tester is used for testing purposes. The test results are compared with industry standards. These results are listed in the solar panels and you can read them before buying.
This rating tells us a lot about the solar panel and its environmental tolerance. These panels can also be tested in real world scenarios.
Of all the parameters are found within the standard limits, the solar panels are shipped to the customers. Solar panels can also be installed by experts that manufacturer can provide. Customers can always get the panels installed at the location of their choice.
The angle of solar panel installation is very important to get the most out of sunlight. That is why you should get the panels installed by the manufacturer.
If you get the panels installed by someone else, the manufacturer does not guarantee proper efficiency of their solar panels.
Products Using Solar Power
There are various products that use solar power. Here are some of them.
Solar Chargers are some of the best products to use. They are especially beneficial if you are always on the go.
You can use this charger to charge your cell phone anytime during the day when there is some sunlight around.
Solar Lights are already being used in many houses and streets. They run directly on solar power during the day, and have a rechargeable battery that charges during the day and provides them with power at night. These light can considerably decrease the electricity usage in your house.
Solar Irrigation Pumps are widely in use in countries like India where there is a power shortage. Government provides subsidies to the farmers who are buying these pumps.
By reducing the cost of electricity, these solar irrigation motors help increase their profits.
Smart Solar Homes are becoming very popular in developed countries. These homes are designed in a way that they do not need any type of external power to run, and are self-sustainable.
This allows the homeowner to enjoy free electricity and end his dependence on the grid.
Solar Mobile Towers are usually used cellular carriers to provide sim signals to less populated regions. Solar power is helping the developing countries in decreasing their electricity costs to run mobile towers.
Rooftop Solar Setup is the most popular solar product these days. These are used on top of house roof in residential areas in order to help in the generation of electricity.
Governments around the world provide subsidies and tax credits for the homeowners installing these setups. This is to encourage people to convert to solar power. They reduce the load the national power grid, and helps reduce the consumption of fossil fuels for power generation purposes.
New Solar Cell Technologies
Lining up the highways with solar can allow us to generate lots of solar power without allocating a specific area for the whole array. Since the space around the roads is usually free, these setups would provide a considerable amount of electricity to the national grid.
Solar in The Space
Using the energy of the sun from space is also under consideration these days. Satellites can capture the solar energy in space, and beam it back to the earth.
Satellites can be put a manner to maximize their sunlight exposure in the space. That is why they can provide us with clean energy. We can generate a lot more energy by using this method. Countries are already investing in this technology as well.
Floating Solar Setups
Solar setups can also be set on the water to end land related problems. This way, we will have an endless sea to populate with solar panels.
Benefits of Solar Energy
The most obvious benefit of solar energy is that it provides us with clean energy. This energy replaces the one made from fossil fuels, and this helps our environment.
Energy made from fossil fuels also releases a lot of dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere. Countries still mostly rely on fossil fuels for power generation. Since fossil fuels are non-renewable, they are getting expensive by the day as their quantity is constantly decreasing.
On the other hand, solar energy is always available free of cost, and it is available equally everywhere around the world. 1 hour of sunlight that falls on earth is enough to power the whole planet for 1 year.
Investing in solar panels is a wise choice. That is because you are investing in an everlasting type of energy.
If solar energy completely replaces fossil fuels in power generation, it will drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. These gases are the biggest culprit in increasing the average temperature on earth.
Countries can save billions of dollars in public health safety by reducing pollution. This is one of the biggest returns that solar energy can provide us with.