What Is Solar Energy?

Strictly speaking, solar energy is heat and light energy from the sun. The sun powers, directly or indirectly, virtually all life on Earth. Plants photosynthesize sunlight to make food. Animals eat plants and other animals. Cold-blooded animals use sunlight to warm their bodies. Even ancient humans used sunlight to spark fires for warmth and cooking.

Today “what is solar energy?” can be answered another way. When it comes to residential solar power generation, “solar energy” is electricity produced from capturing sunlight and converting it to useable electricity that can power your home.

How does solar energy work?

Solar energy systems capture sunlight and transform this clean energy source into electricity. Solar panels are just one part of a residential solar power system. Understanding how solar power works is as easy as 1-2-3. Let’s break it down:

  1. Solar panels, made of photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight into electricity. Sunlight hits the PV cells and frees electrons, which then flow through semiconductor material generating alternating electric current.
  2. This alternating current (AC) needs to be converted to direct current (DC) for use in your home’s electrical system and appliances. The AC power that your solar panels generate flows through an inverter, which converts it to DC power.
  3. The DC power travels through the solar company’s meter, so you and your solar service provider can monitor your solar energy system’s performance, then to the utility meter, which will spin backward if you have net metering, and then finally to your home’s electrical box where it can power your lights, HVAC and electric appliances.

Why solar power?

There are many advantages of solar power. Perhaps most importantly is how residential solar power can help homeowners save on their electricity bills. Whether you choose to buy a solar energy system or lease one from a solar company, you can enjoy savings on your electricity bill from the first day you turn on your system.

Solar power and net metering not only saves you money, but it means that you don’t have to disconnect from the power grid. Even when the sun isn’t shining, you still have reliable power for your home. You just pay less for it.

Another advantage of solar power is that it’s a clean and renewable energy source. Two of the biggest problems with traditional, fossil-fuel-based energy sources is that they are dirty and finite. They pollute the air and water and produce greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. Eventually, it will cost more to extract these fuel sources from the earth than the energy they produce will be worth. It’s not sustainable to continue relying on fossil fuels for energy, especially when clean, reliable alternatives, such as solar, are more affordable and readily available.

Why solar power? Why not?