Solar Energy Is Gaining in Accessibility, Popularity
Byline: Chelle Cordero Creators.com
That massive fireball in the sky is also an economical and renewable source of energy. Governments fund research projects about it; private industries compete for new technologies regarding it; and resourceful homeowners have found ways to put it to work.
The sun has been around since, well, the beginning of time, and in recent years, it has become even more important as mankind finally has realized the need to conserve resources.
"Fifteen years ago, if you used solar energy, people looked at you funny. Now solar has become socially acceptable and desirable," says Dan Lepinski, co-host of the radio show "energizeGreen." A solar energy and energy conservation engineer, Lepinski lived "off the grid" for more than eight years in Wisconsin, using only solar and wind power. Off-grid means the building structure is self-sustaining and doesn't rely on public utilities.
Raymond C. Wiley, director of Aide Solar USA, in Tempe, Ariz., explains what a solar panel is: "Solar panels are composed of several individual photovoltaic cells that are arranged in a gridlike pattern on the surface of the solar panel. Solar panels collect clean renewable energy in the form of sunlight during the daylight hours and convert that light into electricity at convenient, direct current voltages for storing in a battery or being directly converted into typical 120- to 230-volt alternating current, which can then be used to provide power for electrical loads. Solar panels are typically constructed with crystalline silicon, which is used in other industries, such as the microprocessor industry."
Solar photovoltaic, or PV, technology has been around for more than 70 years. It was discovered by Albert Einstein. The majority of solar applications in North America are tied into the grid as supplemental or backup power. The net energy metering law in California actually permits residents with grid-tied systems to feed their excess solar energy back into the public electricity grid, which actually "spins your meter backward" and compensates you for the production of electricity by giving you credits. Storing energy by recharging batteries has provided backup power for scores of residents in the Gulf states during hurricane season, as well as helped to run homes when the sun is not actually shining. …