Apr 10, 2020

Learning Solar Energy 101: The Basics of Solar Energy & Market Size

Although solar energy isn’t new, it’s still gaining popularity with the masses as more individuals turn to energy-efficient alternatives to help their wallet and the environment. So, what is there to know about solar energy? A lot, actually. In this post, we’ll begin by teaching you some basics such as types of solar energy, how solar panels work, and the current size of the solar energy market.

Types of Solar Energy

There are many different types of solar energy, but the most common type is solar photovoltaic energy (PV). Whenever you see those large solar panels on the roofs of houses and businesses, you’re looking at PV solar energy in action. These devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material, called semiconductors. Electrons in these materials are freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit, powering electrical devices or sending electricity to a grid (3). This form of solar energy is used to power a variety of things, from calculators to homes.

There is also concentrating solar power (CSP). You probably aren’t as familiar with this one as it’s not usually seen in residential areas. CSP is commonly used to power large power plants by creating electricity through the use of mirrors reflecting and concentrating sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which in turn produces electricity (2).

Other forms of solar energy you might hear about are passive solar technology, solar water heating, and solar process heat

How Solar Panels Work

The primary materials solar panels are made of are silicon, metal, and glass. The most common form of solar energy – photovoltaic – uses solar panels made of all of these materials, with silicon coming in first for importance. Why? Well, silicon is known for its conductive properties, and when used in solar panels they’re able to convert sunlight into electricity. When these silicon cells interact with sunlight, electrons are then set into motion, initiating a flow of electricity (otherwise known as the “photovoltaic effect”). Of course, these silicon cells can’t work on their own, which is why you will see them paired with a metal casing and wiring, all of which work together in creating useful power from the sun’s rays (1). 

Solar Energy Market

Fast fact: the amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in one and a half hours is enough to power the entire world’s energy consumption for one full year (2). With a fact like that, it’s astonishing that more of the world isn’t using solar energy in their everyday lives! 

Although with that said, it is still a rapidly growing industry and its value is estimated to reach $223.3 billion by 2026 (4). California, in particular, is leading the way with solar energy, being #1 in the country who uses it, with about 7,688,518 homes powered by solar, and 19.89% of the state’s electricity coming from solar. California is followed by South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, and Florida for the states that use the most solar energy (5). See where your state ranks in solar energy use here.

Hopefully, this introduction to solar energy helped answer some of your questions and maybe even taught a few things! Come back next week when we discuss which solar panels are best for different energy solutions. Browsing the market for solar panels? Contact us today to get a free quote.

References on Solar Energy

  1. https://news.energysage.com/what-are-solar-panels-made-of-list-of-solar-pv-materials/
  2. https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/articles/solar-energy-technology-basics
  3. https://www.seia.org/solar-industry-research-data
  4. https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/solar-energy-market
  5. https://www.seia.org/states-map

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