USES OF SOLAR ENERGY

USES OF SOLAR ENERGY

Solar power usage is becoming quite common today since the world is trying to reinvent how we look at our power usage and to move away from fossil fuels.  Solar energy is being used in different domains of our lives and a variety of consumer products are being powered by solar power.  While looking for other sources of energy, the most affordable and easily available option is solar energy since solar panels absorb the energy and convert it to electric power through the photovoltaic effect.  Residences and businesses can switch to solar technology and can pretty much use it to power all the items they use on a daily basis.  Solar energy is a smart option whether you want to protect the environment, save money on utility bills, or increase the resale value of your property.  With people being more aware of the financial and environmental benefits of solar energy and the decline in solar panel costs, solar electricity is becoming increasingly accessible. 

solar powered office conceptsolar powered office concept

Every home and business needs heat and electricity and solar PV and solar thermal systems help supply both. Solar lights can be found everywhere and can power your entire home, tool shed, cabin, or office space through the use of transfer switches and other safety devices. Although solar energy may sound complicated and expensive, the technology and its installation are relatively simple in concept. In many countries, the electricity service providers give the solar-powered homes credit for the usage of solar energy generated and pay you back when the grid is making use of the generated energy.  Government subsidy programs have stimulated a rapid growth in the number of installations of solar panels on to buildings.

on grid solar

On-grid connected solar systems

In grid-connected systems, the solar panel system supplies electricity to the building and any excess energy may be exported to the grid and hence batteries are not required.

Off Grid solar system

On-grid connected solar systems

Battery storage is required to provide power outside daylight hours or on cloudy days if you want to be independent of the grid supply.  Some may prefer to go completely off the grid with solar power and battery system or a solar power and generator system.  Rooftop solar system or distributed solar system is typically installed on the roofs of homes or businesses to generate electricity for the property owner’s usage and send any excess production to the electric grid.  The solar battery connected to the solar power system enables the usage of solar after the sun goes down. If there is not sufficient space on the rooftop for installation, the system may be installed on an adjacent structure and then connected to the meter using underground cabling.

Adding outdoor solar lighting to your property aids in increasing property value and improves home and business efficiency. Unlike traditional lights, solar lights require no wires and harness and the setup is uncomplicated.  Garden lights come with in-built rechargeable battery and with the LED technology, the lights can provide adequate landscape illumination.  Individual lighting fixtures can aesthetically improve the outdoor décor of a property.  Solar street lights are also used both to illuminate the public streets as well as any large garden spaces, parking spaces, play grounds or parks for nighttime security.  Most of the outdoor lights have motion sensors which help in extending the battery life of these lights and provide safety during the dark hours.  To power multiple garden lights, making use of a larger central solar panel is also an option.  There are solar string lights and also kits for seasonal lighting displays for holidays available from basic to high-end designs.

Solar energy can also be used to heat up water for bathrooms, kitchens and also for space heating.  Solar heaters harness sunlight and convert it into thermal energy with the use of liquid or air as a medium. Depending on the requirements of the user, passive or active solar heating systems can be chosen.

solar heating systems

solar heating systems

While passive solar heating systems utilize natural circulation, active systems use pumps to circulate water and generate heat. Active systems used in homes heat water for use at faucets as well as provide whole-house heating.  Solar water heating is more commonly used in businesses, but they are also a possibility for residential use.  The buildings that use hot air heating systems rather than water or another liquid as the medium work by gathering the air that has been heated by the sun and circulating it through the home.  Swimming pools can use a passive heating device that works by absorbing the sun's heat and transmitting it to the water; however, a full-fledged solar water heating system (active) utilizes solar heating panels to collect the sun's heat that is transmitted to the water through a series of tubes coiling through the panels. The water gets heated up when it is circulated to a collector where it is heated by sunlight and pumped back into the pool.  This type of heating is much more cost-effective than the conventional alternatives like gas or oil heating pumps. Solar water heating systems require a pump to circulate water from the solar collector to the holding tank and these pumps are normally powered by household electrical service.  However, the circulating pumps can be run on solar power instead through the use of PV panels to generate the power to run DC motors on the circulating pumps, which resultantly assists in maximum energy saving. The energy is stored in batteries so that the circulating pumps can be run at night or on cloudy days.  Solar ventilation such as solar attic fans can cool your home during the summer and is a good option if you are not able to install a solar PV system to power the entire house. Solar ventilation technology helps in preheating a building’s air in cold climates, thereby reducing energy costs.

central solar power generation

CSP

Utility scale solar PV farms generate enough electricity to empower an entire city.  Another efficient solar technology is central solar power generation and a CSP solar farm uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate the sun’s energy towards a tower or other receiver to generate heat that can power a turbine to create electricity. The thermal energy generated is stored before powering a generator, which makes it a more flexible source of electricity than solar.  Solar energy is used for railroads, subways, buses, planes, cars and even roads, and solar transit is becoming popular and has gained major recognition in many countries.  Solar energy is also often used on navigation buoys, lighthouses, aircraft warning lights on pylons or structures and road traffic warning signals. Solar is used to power environmental and situation monitoring equipment and corrosion protection systems for pipelines, bridges or other structures. The solar powered-aircraft Solar Impulse 2 is the latest accolade in the solar energy industry.  Solar energy is used in cooking and solar cookers are containers lined with foil to focus the sun's rays into a cooking chamber.

solar DC kit

Solar DC Kit

In today’s world, powering consumer electronics has become a common solar power use.  Many gadgets and devices such as cell phones, music speakers, watches, air conditioning, tablets, thermostats, dryers, visor radios, calculators, mini fridges and freezers can be powered using solar energy.  The electronic gadgets can be charged using portable solar chargers and lightweight, water-resistant solar cells are the latest in technology. Portable solar lights such as spotlight or torch, solar home light system (DC kit), table lamps and emergency tube lights have multiple uses such as lighting during power outage and lighting for rural areas that are non-electrified, remote cabins, boating or similar outdoor activities. Holiday homes with no or less access to the electricity grid largely rely on solar power.  Buildings in remote area such as schools, community halls and clinics can all benefit from solar energy. Solar has been the power supply of choice for industrial applications over the years.  On a commercial building, large roof areas are the best location for solar modules. The vertical walls of office buildings provide opportunities for solar incorporation.  If the power requirement is larger, it is best to configure the PV system with a diesel generator. The generator helps provide the back-up power during cloudy days to run the business with the help of continuous electricity production.

Renewable energy is the future and solar energy improves our daily lives.  Individuals and companies must work towards obtaining their electricity from a clean and renewable source and help power a cleaner world.  India is endowed with boundless solar potential and there has been a visible impact of solar energy in the Indian energy scenario.  The decentralized and distributed solar applications have benefited many in the rural areas, not just in lighting and cooking but also in reducing the drudgery of people engaged in the collection of fuel wood from faraway places and cooking in smoky kitchens, thereby minimizing the risks of health ailments and improving the standard of living.  Over the years, solar energy sector in India has emerged as a significant player for energy security, meeting the nation’s energy needs and recently, has reached the fifth global position in solar power deployment.