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The average sunny, suburban neighborhood in the metro Phoenix area will likely not produce any reflective glare from rooftop solar panels. Even in Arizona, where cloudy days are scarce, solar is not commonly utilized throughout the state.
Countries around the world are looking for viable energy options to support the sustainability of the planet. A 2017 report from the International Energy Agency shows that solar energy is on the rise as the world’s fastest growing renewable energy source. Arizona, however, is lagging behind in its solar development.
Understanding exactly what solar energy is and how it works are the first steps to incorporating this renewable energy option into every day life. There is a strong need for education on the topic, so as to continue bringing forward new technologies for solar and other sustainable options.
So how does solar work exactly? The first step is installing the solar panels which convert the sun’s rays into electricity. More specifically, the energy from the sun is converted by the panels into an electricity called DC (direct current). It means the charge is flowing in one direction.
The DC electricity is then processed by an inverter. “This device converts the DC electricity generated by the solar panels into the alternating current (AC) electricity,” according to SolarCity.com.
The inverter acts as the “brain” of the system, according to SunPower.com. Along with converting the specific type of power, it also monitors voltage and the amount of energy produced.
The AC energy is the type of electricity which then powers the air conditioning, lights, appliances, and more within one’s home.
If the solar panels have converted more energy than the home needs, it goes back into the power grid. The grid is what connects your home to others, as well as to the utility companies.
Since the home still needs to be powered at night, that’s where the utility companies come in. The home will access the power grid at night, for which the power is supplied by the utility companies.
If your home has provided excess power to the grid, it will “offset the [costs incurred by] energy used at night,” according to SolarCity.com.
There are important questions to ask when considering installing solar panels. For example, solar panels require installation on a sturdy, reliable roof. Any falling shingles or wood rot would cause immediate concern for safety.
Another common question is does installing solar really offset the costs? The amount that you save is determined by several factors. According to Energy.gov, it will depend on “how much energy you consume, the size of the system, and how much power it is able to generate.”
A successful solar energy system is one where there is not only a strong understanding and reliable technology base, but one where policy incentives and government measures are taken in order to support the community as well.