Solar Energy Basics

Since the dawn of time, human beings have sought energy, to cook, heat, and improve quality of life (just the


Since the dawn of time, human beings have sought energy, to cook, heat, and improve quality of life (just the invention of air conditioning has saved an estimated 2 million lives!)

By harnessing the power of fire or water, combined with fuels derived from trees, coal, oils or gases, humans moved, built and traded across the globe.

Yet all of those energy sources pale in comparison to the very thing powering all life on earth: the sun. Enough solar energy hits the earth in about 40 minutes to power the entire world’s energy usage for a year!

So solar energy is prevalent, clean (no drilling and spilling!), and powerful.  It really presents only two challenges: how to harness it and how to store it.

Capturing the Sun’s Power

Improvements in solar technology have made gains in three crucial areas:

  • Passive energy – smarter building, which utilizes architectural features and building placement to make the most out of the energy from the sun.
  • Active energy – collecting the radiant light and heat from the sun in a semiconducting material (such as silicone).
  • Battery storage – containing solar energy collected for use in periods of darkness (night time, stormy weather, etc), and for additional power during periods of peak usage.

In both commercial and residential applications, these improvements make a difference in energy bills–reducing or even eliminating outside heating and electrical charges.

While passive energy generally needs to be considered at the time of construction (or upgrades) to make a difference, active energy, battery storage, and energy efficiency upgrades, all apply to residential and commercial uses.

Better Understanding, Better Solar

In addition to being more efficient, solar panels are more attractive than ever–smaller, more streamlined, with more flexibility about geographic and onsite location.

In typical use, solar panels may also not receive the recommended 4 hours of direct sunlight.  Fortunately, more modern solar panels do not require direct sunlight to collect radiant solar energy.

Understanding the needs of your environment helps determine the type, rating, and number of panels to achieve your solar energy objectives.

Power is rated in watts (kW are kilowatts or 1,000 watts) and energy is rated in watt hours (kWh is kilowatt hours).

However, you cannot look at your kWh usage and then just divide to determine the number of solar panels it would take to produce that energy.  That’s because solar panel energy is rated in peak solar conditions, and when the panel is not powering anything–the moment it is powering something (drawing some energy off), the voltage decreases.

You can, though, compare the ratings between panels–a 5 kWh panel does produce less power than a 10 kWh, but also less than 5 kWh.

If the goal of a solar panel system is to provide all of the operational power for a business or home, a professional will examine such factors as history and usage, but also anticipated growth.

Why Storage Matters

Battery storage also continues to improve.

For smaller home applications, battery storage does not matter much.  For larger applications, such as larger residential usage or commercial usage, battery storage provides many useful benefits, such as:

  • Backup power in the event of a power outage (even replacing diesel-powered backup generators),
  • Extra power to supplement energy usage at peak hours,
  • Or power to specific applications, such as solar-powered air conditioning or heating of swimming pools.

To determine if your application would benefit from battery backup power, speak with a professional.

Energy Professionals

At Energy Professionals, we operate as independent energy brokers, to partner with clients for all of your energy needs.  From scope of project estimations and solar panel installation to securing resources and incentives, to meeting sustainability objectives, we are your complete energy managers.

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Switching to an alternate supplier is easy. There is no chance of service disruption, and you'll continue with your current utility for energy delivery and emergency service. Take a few minutes to discover your best offers, and enjoy the benefits of retail energy in your home or business.

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