solar energy

Solar Power – 19 Things you need to know about Solar Power

Why solar power is a hot topic right now. 19 things you need to know.

photo by Shannon Braybrook

Why is solar power a hot topic right now?

Solar power is so hot because it just makes sense. The sun is there for us to be using. Let’s use it. It really is hard to imagine that it took this long for so many of us to catch on. Using a few solar panels on your roof hooked up to a battery is a fantastic idea. If the power goes out, you still can charge your phone, use the water pump or watch a little TV at the end of the day. As everyone has the access to this unbelievable power plant above us, why aren’t we all using solar and parking an Aptera in our driveway?

What is the sun and how does it create energy?

Why can the sun create energy? The sun is a huge ball of gas, creating hydrogen and helium. Through nuclear fusion created at the core, any matter lost during this fusion is emitted into space as radiant energy. About 15% of this energy hits our earth and what isn’t sent back out, is used in our atmosphere. It’s hard to imagine that humans have been harnessing solar energy for centuries and that it is not a new way to create power. I think we have to get back to basics and harness it more frequently to supply our energy needs.

What is a solar panel?

A solar panel is a device used to attract radiant energy from the sun to be used for generating heat or electricity.

What are the main components of a solar panel?

I won’t get too scientific here but this is how a solar panel is created and this diagram shows you the main components. You have an aluminum frame that holds 3 to 3.5 mm glass, EVA (encapsulant), the solar cells, EVA, and a polymer back sheet. The solar panel junction box completes the panel. Here is a diagram.

All credit for this image to www.electricaltechnology.org

Do solar panels need direct sunlight?

Do you actually need direct sunlight to operate a solar panel? The short answer is “no”. Solar panels function best when in direct sun exposure but can also be used with ambient sun as well. Solar panels still can produce energy when they are shaded and on cloudy days.

woman in white long sleeve shirt standing near white and gray house during daytime
Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on Pexels.com

Where do the components of solar panels come from?

You probably already guessed the answer to this one but China creates the most solar panels and the components needed to build them. Canada and the USA are climbing the ranks in manufacturing panels.

The top 10 solar manufacturers

Based on solar panel shipment capacity in gigawatts (GW), here are the top 10 solar panel manufacturers in the world according to Energy Sage

  1. LONGi Solar
  2. Tongwei Solar
  3. JA Solar
  4. Aiko Solar
  5. Trina Solar
  6. JinkoSolar
  7. Canadian Solar
  8. Zhongli
  9. SunTech
  10. First Solar
photo of dog statue
China. Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Who buys the most solar panels?

As of Jan 2022, globally, China buys and creates the most solar panels. It also uses the most solar power. They generate over 224 GWh of electricity using just solar, with a projected 370 kWh of installed solar by the year, 2024. 224 GWh is enough power to run 168,000,000 homes!!! Wow! That is some forward thinking. Could you imagine harnessing that much solar energy? Elon Musk states that if the USA put a 100 mile square of solar panels and 1 square mile of batteries in the sunniest state, it could take care of the entire US population’s energy consumption. What is the problem with this? I think that the oil industry is hanging on tight and suppressing solar as much as they can. It’s time to make some changes. Don’t you think?

black and silver solar panels
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What is Perovskite?

Perovskite is a yellow, brown, or black mineral consisting largely of calcium titanite. A perovskite crystal lattice is defined as a network of corner-sharing BX6 octahedra that crystallize with a general ABX3 (or equivalent) stoichiometry. This little mineral is the latest innovation in solar. It can be created by a lab and will create a new way to harness solar power on the earth once it is fully into production. I am so excited about this prospect and feel that this video is perfect to explain how incredible this technology is. Well worth the watch. Thank you to the team at Electric Future for this informative video.

Innovative Technology from

Why use silicon for solar cells?

Using silicon for solar cells is very efficient. Crystalline silicon cells are made of silicon atoms that when connected to one another create a crystal lattice. This lattice provides an effective and organized structure that makes conversion of light into electricity more efficient.

abstract background of metal rough lattice
Photo by Laker on Pexels.com

What is a photovoltaic cell?

A photovoltaic cell is an electrical device (semiconductor diode) that converts the energy of sunlight directly into a useable electricity (DC or direct current). Photo = light, voltaic = electricity formed through chemical reaction).  

a person in black shirt holding a solar panel while standing on the roof
installing a solar panel. Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

How much CO2 is produced in the making of solar panels?

Do you ever wonder how much CO2 is produced from solar panels? Well, during the manufacturing of the panels, caustic chemicals like sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid are produced. Water is also used in the production. It is inevitable that greenhouse gasses are emitted from this process. Solar panels produce around 50g of CO2 per kilowatt hour during their initial years of operation. This is about 20 times less than the carbon output of coal-powered electricity sources. Solar panels do not produce greenhouse gasses or air pollution when operating.

spray paint cans
Photo by Davide Baraldi on Pexels.com

Solar cell paint?

Can you believe that they already have a solar cell paint on the market? It is so exciting to know that solar paint is a reality and it’s application could change the world. Imagine driving a fully solar powered car with a photovoltaic paint job? Yes, please. Keep the top up and grab some sun! There are a few companies making this product now and I think the future will determine how far we can go with this revolutionary idea. Planes? Ships? All running on solar paint. Yes!

The Aptera is out of this world!

Vehicles that use strictly solar

The only 2 vehicles I could find that run strictly on solar power are the futuristic Aptera (we want one) and the Lightyear 0 (this one is pricey). The Aptera is one of the most advanced vehicles in the world today with 3 wheels, roll proof body, a cockpit style cabin and the look of a mini airplane. Running strictly on the sun’s power. This is such a cool vehicle at only $25 k. The Lightyear is a just a wee bit more money at around $169 k (US). Ouch! These vehicles are both in the production stage but I foresee the Aptera (which already has pre-orders) to be on the market pretty quick! Sign me up!

close up photo of batteries
Which battery is best? Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

Best batteries for use with solar?

The lithium ion battery is the best option for use with a solar system. They are made with lead acid, lithium ion and saltwater. It you are creating a “bank” of batteries ( the result of joining two or more batteries together for a single application) this is a higher priced option but well worth the money. These batteries are deep cycle batteries that are used to store energy for later. Unlike a car battery that is only used to spark your ignition, the deep cycle powers with a steady current. Here is a great resource to check out. Unbound Solar

What is a solar inverter?

A solar inverter converts the direct current (DC) energy from your solar panels into an alternating current (AC) for use in commercial applications for home and electrical networks or grids.

Which type of inverter is the best for certain applications?

The grid-tied string inverter is the most common for home and commercial use. It uses an oscillator to ensure that it does not produce a voltage greater than what the power grid can allow. The frequency is important so it matches the grid. Typically, 50 or 60 Hertz.

brown and white house
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

How solar works when used on your home’s roof?

When sunlight is collected into the solar panels, it is then converted with the inverter and stored in the battery bank. The batteries are connected to your electrical box which runs your home.

gold colored coins near calculator
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

The future of solar – is it worth it?

There are a few things to consider when wanting to install solar panels in your home. The main factors to think about are the initial cost, the climate where you live, and how much power you need to run your home or vehicle. Will you be installing everything or are you hiring someone? You should calculate your initial cost of energy being on-grid, and see if it’s worth it. Sometimes there are rebates to install solar.

purple and brown colored planet
Harness the power of the sun. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another factor to consider is whether you rent or own (is it feasible to take the system with you or not) if you sell your house. There is some maintenance and upkeep to the batteries and the panels every month. We like to wash our panels and remove the dust. The batteries get topped up with distilled water when they are low. After almost 3 years with our system, we are happy to say we will be upgrading this winter. We would like to double the panels on the roof, to utilize all of that sunny space.

Our Solar System

We currently have a 2 panel system on the roof of our fifth wheel and it enables us to be off-grid anytime we want. This is very useful as we live in our unit full-time and move from city to city for work. We have 3 deep cycle batteries that sustain us even in the winter. More importantly, when we want to use a bunch of devices, we can. We carry a small portable solar panel to charge our quad or motorcycles too. Very handy! I definitely can see recreational vehicles becoming either fully solar or utilizing some solar and some fuel power. That is promising.

To Summarize

In conclusion, I realize that we have such an incredible resource at our fingertips and it really isn’t being utilized to its maximum potential. The sun is there for us to harness its energy. It’s thrilling to see that solar paint is a thing and that the incredible perovskite products created in labs will be coming down the pike. These companies are extremely forward thinking proving that solar energy is here to stay. There will be so many ways that we can tap into nature for unlimited power. Now that you know, get ready to collect some sunshine. Shannon

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