Your Questions About Solar Panels

Mark asks…

How can electrons keep being generated by solar panels?

I was trying to figure out how solar panels work today and I found that electrons get displaced in 2 layers of a solar panel by photons coming from the sun to create power. If the electrons come from the solar panel and go into the electrical grid, how are they replaced in the solar panel? Wouldn't the solar panel eventually lose all of its electrons and stop working? Electrons have mass, so wouldn't the solar panel slowly deteriorate?

I think solar energy is awesome and I really want to know how it works. Any help in enlightening me on this subject would great, thanks!

ssadmin answers:

It's because the photovolcaics are closed-loop systems. A photon will come in and basically knock an electron across what is called a “junction” and create current, but it is “caught” (really simplified version) on the other side of the junction and kind of “bounced back” into place.

It's like Formula 1 racing or NASCAR. The car will be sitting in the Pit, just waiting to go, then will tear out, run a few laps until it requires more fuel, then stops in the Pit again, gets refueled, and just waits for the signal from the Pit Boss to get going again.

The limiting factor on solar cells isn't the cell itself, as in the electrical circuits and semiconductors, but rather the very slow degradation of the (usually plastic) that holds each small cell in place, so that it can create a useful photovoltaic cell. Since modern plastics can be treated with UV coatings to prevent degradation, and are practically immune to water, the only thing that can really hurt them is somebody whacks it with a hammer or drops it while installing it on the roof.

They're excellent. The south face of my roof is sufficient, along with a small vertical-axis wind turbine, to generate more power than I need, and it actually gets sold back to Sempra Energy/SDG&E.

Joseph asks…

How is energy from solar panels converted to energy that can be used for solar power?

I want to do a science project where I create my own solar panels out of different materials to see which one will produce the greatest amount of energy. Is this a realistic topic if it has to be done before Thanksgiving? If so, how do I make the solar panels? How do I measure/convert the energy? Please help!

ssadmin answers:

Your best bet is making solar water heating panels. You could make them out of copper, PVC, and garden hose, and compare which gets hotter. Check out this site for ideas. Http://www.builditsolar.com/

Avoid the scams out there saying you can build your own panel for $200 to power your whole house. You can't. There are some free instructions on the You Build It site that are legit.

Nancy asks…

How many solar panels do I need to run my two bedroom townhouse without electricity from the grid?

How many solar panels do I need to run my two bedroom townhouse? Are there different solar panels? How many solar panes to produced 1 KW of electricity?

ssadmin answers:

The issue is more complicated than you might imagine. You can learn how many kilowatt hours you use from your electric bill. This will be an average, but if you want to be off the grid, you will need a system large enough to deliver the maximum amount you use. This will not be practical, unless you have batteries on the system.

My 6 kW system delivers about 20 kWh per day, in an area where the insolation value (suns energy) is about 5. You can find your area's insolation value on the Internet, under SOLAR INSOLATION.

My installation is situated for maximum utility, in that my ridge runs east and west, and the panels are on the south slope.

Using this information and your utility bill, you should be able to approximate the size system you need.

If your utility has net metering, you may be better off not having batteries, but spend the money on the largest system you can afford. This way you will maximize the amount of savings. Batteries cost money, have to be maintained, must be replaced every few years, and take away from the efficiency of the system.

There are many kinds of solar panels. Look them up on the Internet to learn their characteristics. Keep in mind that the system output will be only about 70 to 75 percent of the rated output. This is due to inefficiencies in system components.

Michael asks…

What direction should solar panels face if built in the Southern Hemisphere?

If solar panels were on a solar home built in the Southern Hemisphere, should they face north, south, east, or west? and why?

ssadmin answers:

I have mine facing North. They work fine. I'm at 38deg South.

George asks…

I am considering a solar panels. How can I tell if my area gets enough solar energy a year to be worthwhile?

I want to know how I can determine my area's (Rochester NY) yearly solar energy output to see if it would make economic sense to install solar panels. Any websites or resources where I can look?

ssadmin answers:

If you are looking for the cheapest electrical power available solar panels are not going to be what you want.

Roughly solar panels will supply electrical power costing about 3-10 times more than what you can purchase from your local electrical company when averaged over the 20-25 year life of any solar panels.

Go look at how much you spend for your electricity in a single year. Then go look at how many solar panels you can purchase for this amount of cash (In my case I spend about $1000 each year for power).

This means that economic “sense” must be tempered with some other desire for the solar panels.

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