How Solar Power Works

The science of modern solar power began in 1839 when a French physicist accidentally discovered that the sun's rays emit energy. These led to further experimentation on what is known as the "photovoltaic effect" over several decades, until the first solar photoelectrical cell was built in 1877 by an English engineer named Willoughby Smith.

Albert Einstein conducted research into the photovoltaic effect and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1912 for his discoveries. By 1955, the commercial production of solar photovoltaic cells was underway. The first large scale use of solar cells was to power the Vanguard I satellite, which was launched in 1958. Since then, developments in the field of photovoltaics have continued at a rapid pace.

Since 2002, photovoltaic production has increased by about 50% per year, making it the most rapidly growing form of energy technology in the world today.

How Solar Electricity Can Work for You

Heating a house with conventional electricity is expensive and inefficient. By using solar panels made up of a number of solar photovoltaic cells, you can tap into this renewable, inexpensive and pollution-free form of energy.

  1. Energy from the sun is collected by solar panels and converted into direct current electricity (DC). This electricity is added to the utility grid, which is electricity that you access from your local power utility company. Your electricity requirements determine how many panels you need.

  2. The DC electricity is converted by an inverter to alternating current electricity (AC) as required for use in your home.

  3. A home solar system uses a bi-directional power meter to display net power consumption. When more energy is generated than used, the meter moves backwards. This indicates a saving in your electricity bill. When less energy is generated, the dialog moves forward as it normally would.

  4. The electricity generated by your solar panels can be used throughout your home. If your system has a solar wireless display, you can track the amount of electricity generated by your system.

  5. Excess electricity that your solar system generates is stored in the utility grid, ready for you to use in the future. Another advantage of a solar panel system is that it has no moving parts and is practically maintenance free.