Alternative Energy Sources- Solar Panels

Posted 11 September 2014 5:56 PM by Tim Coutis

A brighter future in theory
One of the first alternatives, and one that held out hope for home owners was the solar panel. These photo voltaic panels that capture sunlight and turn it into energy held the promise of heat in winter and air conditioning in summer without burning oil and using electricity provided by the grid. A solar panel is made up of an array of photovoltaic cells. These cells, generally made from crystalline silicone, or crystal blends, form a sheet of semiconductors to capture photons, or light from the sun. Modules are interconnected forming two plates of different silicone types creating positive and negative fields to achieve a desired output of AC power. The efficiency of solar panels is based on their ability to capture as wide a range of sunlight as possible.

While breakthroughs in solar energy began as far back as 1839 when a French experimental physicist discovered the photovoltaic effect while experimenting with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that companies such RCA and Wester Electric were able to bring the different components together to create the light capturing PV cells that make up solar panels today.

The first use of solar modules was in space in 1958 when the US Signal Corp launched the Vanguard I Satellite into space with a 9% efficient PV Cell array designed by Hoffman Electronics. The satellite operated successfully for 8 years. In 1975 the US Government began funding additional research and development of this alternative energy source. In 1977 the Solar Energy Research Institute, later know as the National renewable Energy Laboratory opened it’s door isn Golden, Colorado. As part of a campaign to conserve energy, Carter installed 32 solar panels on top of the White House. The panels were intended as a symbol of America’s desire to free itself form its dependence on foreign oil through innovation. The solar panels were removed by the Reagan administration in 1981. The ensuing years saw a slowing in the use of solar panels due to their high cost compared with fossil fuels.

Improvements and Affordability Make Solar a Reality
Today’s solar panels are far more efficient and affordable.To illustrate the drop in price for PV Cells it is estimated that the per watt price in 1977 was $76.67 compare to a per watt price today of $0.74. Additionally, tax credit offered by both state and federal governments as well as rebates and other incentives make solar technology accessible to the average homeowner. Solar panels can be purchased or leased. Some states (CA, NJ, MD, TX) even have programs that offer no money down installations. Modern solar panels are not only more efficient they are also more durable lasting up to 25 years adding to the property value of your home.

A greater acceptance of alternative energy resources like solar panels means for the first time, instead of paying the electric company, you now have the possibility of receiving a check for the unused energy you supply to the grid.

Check out this Solar calculator to see what it would cost to outfit your home

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