Everyone has been there. The power bill comes in, and it’s higher again. Why does electricity cost so much? What if there were a way you could generate some of your own power so the bill won’t be as much?
One way to generate your own power is to use photovoltaic cells. They will not only reduce your monthly electricity cost but also help the environment by using a green, renewable energy source.
But what is photovoltaic technology? Keep reading to learn all about it and how it can benefit you.
What Are Photovoltaic Cells?
The word photovoltaic comes from the Greek photo, meaning light, and the last name of the Italian physicist and chemist Alessandro Volta. He was a pioneer in the study of electricity and is often given credit as the inventor of the electric battery.
It comes as no surprise, then, that voltaic has come to mean having to do with electricity. Putting it together, this means that photovoltaic cells convert light into electricity.
Most cells are comprised of semiconductor material. Normally, materials are either conductors or insulators depending on whether or not the electrons in their atoms are free to move around.
In some instances, however, a material’s conductivity, the ability for electrons to move around, can be between that of a conductor and an insulator. These are called semiconductors.
Although there are other types, the most widely used by far is doped silicon. When a small amount of phosphorous is added to silicon, the extra electrons on the phosphorous atoms are free to move around, giving the silicon some conductivity.
Similarly, when a small amount of boron is added to silicon, the fewer electrons cause “holes” of charge that are spread throughout the silicon. This results in an overall positive charge.
Energy From the Sun
Although photovoltaic cells find some specialized use in other areas, their most common use is in solar panels. Solar photovoltaic panels use light from the sun to generate electricity.
The sun produces energy through a process called nuclear fusion. In this process, protons in the sun’s core combine to form helium nuclei, releasing energy as a result.
First, two protons collide at great speed and one of them changes to a neutron. The proton and neutron together form a deuterium atom. This then collides with another proton to form an isotope of helium which consists of two protons and a neutron.
Two of these helium-3 isotopes collide to form a helium-4 nucleus, which is two protons and two neutrons, as well as two free protons. These free protons go on the start more collisions, making this a chain reaction.
The energy that comes from these reactions becomes the light that the sun gives off. Eventually, this light reaches us here on Earth where we can harvest it to use as energy.
Solar Photovoltaic Power
Most solar photovoltaic systems use thin layers of silicon to produce and guide electrons. The top layer consists of silicon doped with phosphorous, giving it a negative charge.
The bottom layer consists of silicon doped with boron, giving it a positive charge. The different charges on the different layers produce an electric field which causes electrons to flow in the direction of the field.
When light from the sun hits these layers of silicon, it has enough energy to knock some of the electrons off of their atoms. Because they are in an electric field, the electrons move in the same direction.
The moving electrons form the current that becomes the electricity that powers your home or business. Each photovoltaic cell doesn’t produce many electrons, so many have to be connected and their electrons collected at the end.
Since the electrons are flowing in one direction, this current is direct current (DC). The electrical grid, however, uses alternating current (AC), so a power inverter converts the DC current to AC.
From there, it used by appliances and electronics in your home or business, or if there is enough, some of it can be sent to the grid.
Benefits of Solar Power
Whether you’re looking for solar power for your home or a business, there are many benefits to using solar power services. One of the greatest benefits is saving money on your power bill.
Because you’re generating your own electricity, you won’t need as much, if any, from the electrical grid. This will save enormously on your power bill.
In fact, if you generate more than you use, some power companies even give credits for the extra electricity put back into the system. This is called net metering.
Even though the initial cost to install solar panels may be high, the federal government has a program where you can get tax credits for doing so.
In addition to saving money, solar power is better for the environment. With the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, many people and governments are looking for ways to generate energy without them.
Solar photovoltaic cells are one of the ways that we can transition away from fossil fuels. They are one of the cleanest and most reliable sources of energy because they use the energy that is all around us.
Now that you know all about how photovoltaic solar panels work and how they can benefit you, feel free to do some more research on your own and find out if they are right for your home or business.
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