Clean Energy: Is Solar Energy Renewable?

The need to move from over-reliance on electricity from the national grid and save the environment has forced people to shift towards renewable energy. Nowadays, governments and people want reliable sources of clean energy that they can control. Such sources include wind energy, geothermal, and solar energy.

While each of these sources has its advantages, many people seem to lean towards solar energy. It is the most affordable of all these and also has several and better tax incentives.

Is solar energy renewable? This post will look at the various aspects of solar energy as a renewable resource and whether it is the best for your commercial or residential power uses.


Overview

Solar power has been in use for ages without depletion. Our forefathers used it to dry food for preservation. Fast forward to today, solar energy can virtually run any appliance.

With highly efficient solar systems, much power can be harnessed from the sun and be used to power commercial installations and residential areas. When signing the Paris accord, nations agreed to reduce the carbon footprint and other greenhouse gases.

One topic of discussion was the transition towards the use of renewable energy. It proves that the potential for solar energy as a renewable resource is unlimited. With technology, we can only expect better.


What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the energy that comes from the light and heat from the sun. It is a form of renewable energy or green power that does not deplete and has no adverse environmental impacts.

We commonly harness solar energy using photovoltaic (PV) cells or solar panels. In solar photovoltaic power stations, you arrange the solar panels edge-to-edge for capturing the sunlight in vast fields. You can also mount solar panels on top of commercial and residential buildings.

Semiconductors like silicon make up solar PV cells. When the sunlight hits the solar cells, the electrons exit from their atoms. They flow through the solar cell and generate electrical power. The solar panels can produce enough energy to run any machinery if you arrange the setup on a larger scale.

The other way to harness solar power is using solar thermal power stations. These power plants use various techniques to harness solar power. For instance, solar energy can boil water that runs a steam turbine or engine similar to nuclear or coal power plants.

In addition, we can store excess solar energy generated by a solar panel in a battery or a solar power generator for future use. Now that you know what solar energy is, let us see how it works.


How Does Solar Energy Work?

Solar technologies convert the light from the sun to electrical power either through solar PV panels or mirrors, which concentrate the solar radiation. We can store the collected energy in a battery or thermal storage. Below is how solar works.

Solar radiation refers to the light emitted from the sun. Although every part of the World receives sunlight, the solar radiation reaching any part of the earth is different.

Various solar technologies harness solar radiation and convert it into other forms of energy that various electrical appliances can use. Therefore, we can categorize solar energy technologies into two main categories, CSP (concentrating solar-thermal power) and solar PV (Photovoltaics) technologies.


Basics of Photovoltaics

Solar panels commonly use photovoltaics. When the sun irradiates the solar panel, the PV solar cells absorb the energy from the sunlight (Photons). Thus, an electrical charge is created and moves, responding to the cell’s internal electrical field. This process causes the flow of electricity.

The basics of concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP)

CSP systems use mirrors for reflecting and concentrating the light from the sun on receivers, which collect and convert the solar energy into heat. The heat can be used in electricity production or stored to be utilized later. Large solar power plants use CSPs.

After you collect the power using either technology, there are various component integrations. The appliances can now work with solar energy. Such components include batteries, inverters, solar charge controllers, among other materials. It is only then that you can use solar power.

Pros

There are many advantages of using solar power to power your home. However, we have compiled the most vital merits. They include:

  • Reduces your electrical bill

Too many homes, reducing their monthly electrical bills is a priority. Using solar energy is the best and simple way to reduce your electricity bill. Solar power can help you save money while earning even more. Some solar power systems qualify for federal tax credits, state-level rebates, and incentives.

The government rewards you with tax cuts because you have chosen a greener, safer, and renewable power option. Thus, you get the return on investment quickly and save on installation costs. With a solar power system, you can also sell the surplus power to the electrical grid.

  • Eco-friendly

Compared to non-renewable sources of energy, solar energy has the least amount of carbon emissions. This is because non-renewable sources of energy rely on fossil fuels heavily. Since solar power does not use any combustion, there are insignificant greenhouse gas emissions, if any.

Every kWh of solar power reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases, like CO2. It also reduces pollutants as nitrogen oxides and Sulphur oxides. Thus, the air becomes cleaner if more people use solar energy.

  • It is a move towards energy independence.

Non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels can be depleted, and you cannot replace them. However, the sun will always rise and shine for the foreseeable future. Being energy independent is a significant advantage. As the technology develops, we will have more ways of incorporating renewable energy into our daily lives as solar panel conversion rates improve.

  • Solar energy moves you to more sustainable energy.

For the foreseeable future, solar energy as a renewable resource will remain stable. Solar energy is the most abundant source of energy in the World. Therefore, solar energy is sustainable, and shifting to it will be an advantage.

  • Low maintenance

Solar energy systems have extensive warranties that may sometimes extend to over 25 years. In addition, they do not have many moving parts. Thus, they do not wear out. The only maintenance is annual cleaning and maybe changing the thermal components of the solar energy system every ten years. Because they have low maintenance costs, you spend little on their repairs.

Cons

  • High initial investment

The initial cost of purchasing and installing a solar energy system is high. However, each company offers a different purchasing and pricing option. In addition, the cost varies depending on your location, the requirements for installation, labor fees, and the number of solar panels you need. Such factors can make it difficult for some households who might only finance it using loans.

  • It does not work at night.

At night, there is no sunlight. Therefore, unless you store the energy in a battery and you can use it at night. It means that when the sunsets. You may be forced to depend on the national grid like everyone else.

  • Space constraints

The more electrical power you require, the higher the number of solar panels you will need. It means that you will use more space. However, not all rooftops can accommodate the large number of solar panels that you may need. You can also keep the solar panels in your yard, although it needs to have enough sunlight. It means that if your yard has trees, it will not suffice.

  • Energy storage

If you do not use solar energy immediately, store the energy in the batteries. They can be both space-consuming and costly. In addition, if the battery does not have enough capacity, it may discharge fast and leave you in darkness at night.

  • Location matters

Although the sun is available everywhere and abundant energy source, its intensity varies depending on where you are on the earth. The weather may be cloudier and rainier compared to other places. In places like Alaska, the sun does not appear for several days in winter.

To those who rely on solar power in such areas, this can be an issue. Another factor that can negatively affect the power generated by your solar system is the solar eclipse.

Also Read: Best Solar Generators [2022]


Types of Solar Power 

Commercial Solar Power

Commercial solar power needs to be in higher wattages than residential power. It is because commercial solar power runs heavy appliances that have high power ratings. We can divide them into distinct power sizes, less than 30kW, 30-100kW, over 100kW, and above 250kW.

Some commercial power systems need unique systems to protect the system from all the electrical power they produce. To install them, you need a permit from the local electricity regulator. We used power systems below 100kW in local clubs, retail businesses, and medium-sized office buildings.

If you decide to install commercial power systems that produce over 100kW, you lose the eligibility to claim STC rebates. We use such a system in wineries, large offices, small to medium industries, and hotels.

Installing commercial power systems requires a professional who understands the engineering specifications of such commercial systems. A commercial solar power system should monitor electricity generation and consumption at the same time.

Since commercial solar power systems are large and expensive, they require a significant investment. You can finance them using a loan, partnering with a local government, cash, or power purchasing agreement.

 

Residential Solar Power

The next type of solar power is residential solar power. It powers homes and apartments in the town. Residential solar power runs things like refrigerators, microwaves, TVs, and other household electrical appliances.

Unlike commercial solar power systems, residential systems do not require much space. You can install solar panels on the top of your roof or your yard. In addition, you do not require a complex interconnection of batteries. With a residential solar system, you only need a solar panel and a solar power generator.

Alternatively, you can buy the components like charge controllers, inverters, panels, batteries and make the connections yourself. It produces enough power to run your appliances. You can connect the system to the grid if you plan to use the two interchangeably or use the system as a standalone. The system saves you some electrical bills that you can use otherwise.

Power Output

Solar energy as a renewable resource has infinite power output. However, current technologies have a limit in the amount of power that a solar panel can produce. A solar panel converts only about 25% of the solar energy into electrical energy. Therefore, when comparing solar panel options, the power output is a vital factor to consider.

A solar panel should generate electricity to run your needs, be it commercial or residential applications. When buying a solar panel of a solar power station, look for the maximum rated power (peak/surge power) and its continuous power. The two are critical as they determine the appliance that you can run using the solar panel.

Two critical factors determine the amount of power that a solar panel can produce, the energy efficiency of the solar panel, the size of the solar panel, and the number of solar photovoltaic cells. If the efficiency of the solar panel is high, it means that the solar panel will produce more energy.

The higher the number of solar PV cells, the higher the efficiency of the solar panel and consequently the amount of power produced.

 

Fuel

Solar panels or solar power systems do not use any form of fuel. Therefore, their operational cost is low. There are gas or diesel generators that are also used for producing electricity. These emit gases like carbon and other greenhouse gases that pollute the environment.

As we saw in the advantages, solar power is a clean form of power. Since it does not use any form of fuel, solar energy is environmentally friendly. It also makes the solar generator highly compact and portable.

Technology

We can harness solar energy using three unique technologies. These include Photovoltaics, SHC (solar heating and cooling) systems, and CSP (concentrating solar power).

Photovoltaics

These are the solar panels that convert solar energy into electrical power with the help of an inverter. They use semiconductor technology in harnessing solar energy. The solar energy from the sun exits the electrons from the semiconductor. They are then induced to flow into an electrical circuit, powering the battery and your appliances.

The energy from solar PV panels can run small residential appliances, industrial-grade appliances, or connect to the grid to sell the surplus.

Solar Heating and Cooling

SHC technologies harness the sun’s thermal energy and use it to provide space heating, hot water, cooling, heating pools for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. SHC technologies remove the need to use natural gas or electricity. Therefore, these heating and cooling systems remove the reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Concentrating Solar Power

CSP stations use parabolic mirrors for concentrating solar energy. They use the collected energy for driving steam turbines or electricity-creating engines. You can store the energy collected using this technology and use it to produce electricity whenever it is needed.

Roughly 1815MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants are operational in the united states. Other technologies used in this category include a compact Fresnel reflector, a power tower, and a dish engine.

Safety

Solar energy has no known risks. It is a safe form of energy. However, this does not mean that it cannot be short-circuited if one is reckless during installation.

The safety of solar power depends on how you have installed it. It is essential to follow the manual that comes with the materials. Ensure that there are no exposed wires and that you do not overcharge the battery.

To protect your appliances, ensure that you use a charge controller, either an MPPT or a PWM charge controller. In addition, select a solar power station that has protections against overcharging, short-circuiting and undercharging. Your safety and that of your appliances are of utmost importance.

 

Uses

Solar energy has a wide range of uses. We can use it for electricity or heat. The technologies like photovoltaics and CSPs convert solar energy into electrical power that you can use for commercial or residential power appliances.

We can also use solar power as heat. SHC systems use solar temperatures for space heating and heating pools in commercial and residential settings. However, the use of solar energy depends on the power requirements of the appliance and the solar panel’s power rating. For example, if your solar panel can generate power of 250W, you only can power appliances up to 90% of that power because of inverter losses.

 

Price

The price of a solar power system depends on the brand you are buying and the power rating. Are you buying the solar power system as a unit or individual parts? Buying individual parts is expensive, as opposed to buying them as a unit. Besides the power rating, a solar panel’s price also depends on the technology used. You can find a small solar generator for as little as $200.

There are two technologies for making solar panels, monocrystalline and polycrystalline.

Polycrystalline solar panels have more PV cells hence are more efficient than monocrystalline solar panels. Therefore, their prices are usually higher. Note that the price of a solar power system does not mean that it is better.

You may get the same power output with a relatively low-cost system as another person who uses an expensive setup. Therefore, begin by knowing the total power you need before purchasing a solar panel.

Also Read: Can a Solar Generator Power an Air Conditioner?


Frequently Asked Questions About If Solar Energy Is Renewable (FAQs)

Is Solar Energy Renewable?

Yes, solar energy is renewable, unlike fossil fuels. It can be used for ages without depletion. As we have seen above, our forefathers used it for various applications, and it is still here. We only need more effective solar panels to realize their full potential. If the panels have a conversion rate of below 25% today, imagine what we can accomplish with 80% conversion rates.

Why is Solar Energy the Best Source of Energy?

Solar energy is one of the best source of energy. First, solar renewable energy sources are eco-friendly and cheap. Unlike other renewable sources like geothermal and wind power, solar energy does not require much investment to get going.

Other reasons it is the best energy source include the low maintenance cost of the appliances you need to generate it. Finally, it is a quiet source of energy. The advantages of using solar energy as a renewable resource are many.


Is Solar Energy Renewable?

Yes, Solar energy is renewable.

Feel free to review the Best Solar Generators to view the top makes and models. If you’d like to Build Your Own Solar Generator, you can DIY.

Solar energy has many other advantages that make it among the best sources of energy.  First, using solar power will save you some electricity bill expenses. Second, you can receive tax credits or deductions for installing solar energy systems (consult with your tax adviser to be sure). Third, selling your surplus power to the grid can make you an income while also ensuring that you protect the environment.

Install a solar energy system for your home or business to gain all the advantages above. So is solar energy renewable? Yes, it is.

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