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How does solar energy work? Save money with it

Solar energy is increasingly being used as an energy source. Thus, many people have questions. After all, how does solar energy work? 

Before starting it’s important to say that, leaving aside the investment for installing a system, solar energy systems grant hug savings on electricity bills. As a result, of course, the sun is an increasingly widespread and used source.

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According to the International Energy Agency, solar energy could be the largest power source up to 2050. So, to learn more about it’s not good for planet, but an economically-wise decision. 

How does solar enegy work?

There are basically three types of energy generated by the sun: photovoltaic solar energy, heliothermic energy and solar thermal energy.
So, each of them works in a different way:

  • Photovoltaic energy works through panels that transform sunlight into electrical energy;
  •  Heliothermal uses the heat generated by radiation to generate steam to power turbines that generate electricity;
  • Thermal, on the other hand, uses heat to heat water.

In general, the most used energy is photovoltaic, which is the one routinely seen on the roofs of homes and businesses. It is basically how it works in solar panel for home.

So, if you are thinking of using solar energy as a source of electrical energy for your home, this is the type of energy system that you should look for.
Throughout the text, we will explain better about it, bringing a very complete content.

In addition, we will bring a brief explanation about the other types of solar energy, to bring the most complete article on the subject.

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Without further ado, let’s get to the text!

How does the photovoltaic effect work for solar energy?

Before understanding how photovoltaic systems work, it is necessary to understand the photovoltaic effect, which is responsible for generating electricity from solar energy.

That way, it will be easier to understand the whole concept behind it.
In a simplified way, the photovoltaic effect is the emergence of electric current from a semiconductor material structure exposed to energy photons and light radiation.

Solar panels have dozens of photovoltaic cells with semiconductor materials. Having silicon as the most common element among them.

In this way, when sunlight falls on the panel, the photons energize the electrons of the silicon atoms present in the solar cells. 

Making the displacement through different layers creating the direct current, called photovoltaic energy.

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How does photovoltaic energy work?

Photovoltaic solar energy works through systems that transform sunlight into compatible electrical energy to serve homes, businesses, industries, rural properties, among other establishments.

Photovoltaic systems through two main equipment:

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The solar panel, responsible for transforming light into electrical energy;
And the solar inverter, which is responsible for converting electrical energy from direct current to alternating current, and passing it on to the electrical unit.

This transformation is fundamental, since the energy we use in homes and businesses is in alternating current.

So, the conversion is essential for the electrical network to receive and be able to use or store it in the best possible way.

In photovoltaic solar energy, there are basically three types of energy systems, which, although they produce electricity in the same way, work in a different way from each other.

These systems are:

  • Grid connected system: receives the extra energy produced during the day, ensuring energy for when there is no sun;
  • Battery-powered system: uses batteries to store the energy produced during the day, ensuring energy for when there is no sun;
  • The hybrid generator: which is basically a mixture of both, running through the electricity grid at the same time and relying on a battery to store energy.

How does the grid-connected electrical system work?

Read below how the system connected to the network works. In this video, you can have a more visual explanation:

Capture and transformation of energy through the solar panel

The solar panel is composed of solar panels that capture energy. The solar panel comes into contact with sunlight, capturing the energy. After that, it is transformed into electrical energy in direct current.

In this way, to obtain the necessary amount of energy, it is necessary to calculate how much energy the place needs and from that, make the calculations of how many plates must contain in the solar panel.

Also, the bigger the panel, the more power you can get. However, it is advisable to calculate the exact amount, to avoid extra expenses in the budget.

Current adaptation through the inverter

The second step of how solar energy works, passes through the inverter. Thus, as briefly explained above, it is the equipment responsible for changing the energy so that it is compatible with the house.

In the second stage, all the energy generated is in direct current. From there, it is necessary to convert to alternating current. Thus, it is up to the inverter to make this change.

In this way, the energy generated will be in accordance with the type of energy used by the electrical components of the place. That’s because alternating current is present in virtually all electrical components and so they will work normally.

Energy reaches the energy board and is distributed

After the entire inverter process, it is time for the energy to be used on site. However, it is still necessary to rely on electricity from the distributor, but at a much lower expense, given that the main source of energy will be solar.

The solar energy system has the ability to meet all the demand of the place, as long as it is done with all the correct planning and correct execution. Since each system will have a limit that will be able to generate energy.

In this way, trained professionals must be behind all stages. In this way, there will be no errors to harm the different processes involved.

The generated energy feeds the electrical equipment

In this way, trained professionals must be behind all stages. In this way, there will be no errors to harm the different processes involved.

The energy produced by the photovoltaic system is capable of meeting the same demands as the electricity from the local distributor.

In this way, energy is responsible for generating power for sockets, lamps, refrigerators, air conditioning, televisions, cell phone chargers, cars, in short, the same equipment that works from energy from the power board.

Excess energy is injected into the local electricity grid, generating credits on the electricity bill

As the system uses solar energy as a source of energy, it is normal that during the day, a recent consumption is generated. Assuming that the installation followed correctly.

That way, that excess goes somewhere, not being wasted.
In this system there is no battery to store energy. Therefore, all excess energy is directed to be used by the public network.

In this way, energy credits are generated for the address. To control the systems connected to the network, the energy counter clock is changed to a bidirectional model, which measures energy input and output.

After that, any shared excess will generate energy credits for the location. Providing energy at times when the sun is not present. This is because the capture and generation of energy occurs only with the presence of the sun.

Basically, the excess energy generated from the solar power system is lent to the neighborhood.

How does the battery powered system work?

The process is basically the same as described above. However, instead of being injected directly into the power grid, the generated energy is stored in a battery.

In this way, the excess produced will not be injected into the electricity grid, but will be stored in the battery, to be used when solar energy is not being generated.

In this way, an off-grid system can autonomously meet the energy consumption of the site.

In addition, this type of system is widely used in remote places, where they often do not have conventional electricity.

This is a much cheaper and more sustainable alternative than relying on generators powered by fossil fuels.

Although it is quite similar to the system above, as far as operation is concerned, it has some differences, in addition to the battery.

In the off grid system, the energy generated by the panels is stored in the battery, going to the inverter later. In this way, the energy is stored in the form of direct current, modified to alternating current by the inverter, before being sent to the local electrical grid.

Therefore, only the energy necessary for the local demand is sent, not having a surplus to return to the electrical grid. The battery stores all this excess and releases it as needed.

How does the hybrid energy system work?

Hybrid systems, as stated above, are a mixture of on-grid and off-grid systems.

They are connected to the electrical grid, drawing or injecting energy into it, while having a battery to store excess energy for use when the system operates isolated from the grid.

Thus, hybrid systems have two inverters, one on grid and the other off grid, or even a hybrid inverter that operates in both configurations alternately.

That is, the hybrid system is operating next to the electricity grid and can start to operate in an off grid configuration, using the energy stored by the battery to account for the consumption of the place, in case there is an interruption in the energy supply, for example.

How does solar thermal energy work?

Thermal energy systems work from collector plates that capture the heat generated by solar radiation and transfer it as a way of heating the water, which is stored in thermal reservoirs for later use.

This type of technology is mainly used as a replacement for electric heaters. Where the hot water used in the baths comes from her.

It basically works in three steps:

  • Thermal solar collectors capture the heat of the sun’s radiation, transferring it to heat the water in the reservoir;
  • The water is then transported to a solar accumulator;
  • During the night, stored hot water is used.

What changes in this type of solar energy capture is basically the size of the reservoir, to meet the demand for the volume of water needed on site.

How does solar heliothermal energy work?

Finally we bring the heliothermic energy, which works from heliostat mirrors.

They are responsible for capturing and converging sunlight to a receiver, where the radiation heat heats the receiver’s liquid until boiling, creating steam that will later feed the turbines to generate electricity.

Thus, heliothermal energy is an indirect way of generating energy from solar energy.

This type of energy is present in solar thermal plants. See the 5 stages of thermosolar energy:

  • The mirrors follow the direction of the sun, reflecting all its light and concentrating it in a certain point;
  • The receiver is located in it, which maintains or passes through the thermal fluid;
  • The concentrated heat is responsible for heating the liquid and generating steam;
  • The steam is sent to pipes feeding the electric turbines;

Finally, the plant works like a traditional plant. Having the turbines feeding a generator responsible for transforming mechanical energy into conventional electrical energy.

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