How Low Can Solar Power Costs Go?

Please take a look at this fascinating article on the cost of solar power and how in the next 20 years in many areas the world will be able to get solar power for $.02 / kwh. This is cheaper than Natural Gas prices today and is self sustaining. We may be able to get up to 32 percent of our global power supply from solar if the trends, costs and demand hold true as they are today.


Solar Leasing

A concept that is gaining popularity is solar leasing. Individuals and businesses work with companies that specialize in the design, installation, monitoring and maintenance of solar power systems. The basic idea is that the company owns the solar panels and equipment that are installed at your location. You then pay a monthly fee for the solar energy just like you would a utility bill only the solar energy is generally less expensive.

Since the company owns the equipment, they are responsible for monitoring and repairing parts if there are any failures.  Like a car lease, after the term of your agreement is ended, you have the option to purchase the equipment outright, upgrade with the latest model system or return the equipment.

This is a great option for individuals that are interested in converting to a clean, renewable energy source, such as solar, but do not have the resources available to purchase a system all at once. Most solar leasing companies have many different payment options available to suit your needs.

Types of Photovoltaic Systems

There are four basic types of photovoltaic system. PV-direct systems do not have a battery, so only works when the sun is shining. Off-grid systems provide all electricity to a home that is not connected to a utility grid.  These systems require battery back up to provide power when the sun is not shining. Grid-tied systems with batter backup are like an off grid system but are also connected to a utility grid so they can draw power when the sun is not shining and the battery is not adequately charged. Batteryless grid-tied systems generate energy by the solar panel system to power the home and excess energy produced is fed to the grid. The energy given to the grid offsets the energy pulled from the grid when the sun is not shining to result in a reduced power bill. This system does not require a battery.

Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaic cells are the main components that make up standard solar panels. The modules have no moving parts and are made of semiconductor material.  There are two main types of photovoltaic cells. Crystalline silicon cells, which make up approximately 80% of the market, are made of monocrystalline, multicrystalline, or ribbon silicon. The other type of cells is thin film made of amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium diselenide. Each cell is made up of a positive and a negative wafer of silicon placed under a toughened layer of glass.

As the sunlight hits a photovoltaic cell, the photon’s energy is transferred to an electron in the cell material. With the extra energy, the electron is able to escape from it’s usual orbital in the semiconductor atom. The free electrons are directed into the current by the by the electrical field near the surface of the cell.

Challenges of Solar Power

Today’s commercial solar cells can only convert sunlight into usable energy with an efficiency of 10 to 20 percent. Much of the excess energy that not converted takes the form of useless heat. This in combination with high manufacturing costs results in solar energy costing approximately 3 to 6 times more than energy from fossil fuels.

Another major issue is the storage of converted energy. The use of water pumps and batteries works on a relatively small scale but cannot be adequately scaled up to support a power-grid.

New materials used in solar cells and capacitors could increase efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs, which will remove some of the challenges of using solar as a sustainable energy source.

Introduction to Solar Energy

Did you know that more energy from the sun reaches the earth in one hour than the amount used by everyone in the world throughout an entire year?

The basic process to utilize the sun’s energy is first to capture it, then convert it into a form that is usable and store it to use when the sun is not shining.

There are two basic methods of conversion.  One method is Direct or photovoltaic conversion, when photovoltaic cells arranged in a grid make up solar panels that converts solar radiation into electrical energy as it strike the panels. The end result is a direct current, which can be used in your home.

Another method is Indirect or solar thermal conversion. This is a method that concentrates the sunlight using lenses and mirrors to boil liquids such as water. The steam created can be used to rotate a turbine, which produces electricity.

Basic Set Up with Parts from the Hardware Store

Here is the first of many videos for you:


Solar Power 101

What is Renewable Energy?

With growing concern over volatile energy prices, conventional power infrastructure reliability and climate change, how we generate our electricity has become a matter of everyday discussion. Using renewable resources – sunlight, wind and water – as a means to generate power has many benefits over traditional fossil fuels such as coal and oil and Alpha energy can help you take advantage of these resources.

Solar Power Systems

A Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Power System converts sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity – without noise or air pollution – to power equipment or charge a battery. Depending on the amount of electricity required, PV cells can be grouped into PV Modules and arranged into “solar arrays”. PV systems work any time the sun is shining, but more power is produced when sunlight is more intense and strikes solar panels directly. A PV system includes electrical connections, mounting hardware and power conditioning equipment, with optional batteries that store solar energy for use when the sun is not shining.