The phrase “solar energy” gets used a lot, but many people aren’t sure exactly what it means. If you’re considering installing solar panels at your home or business, it’s important to understand how solar energy is defined – and how it works.
What is Solar Energy?
“Solar energy” is a phrase used to describe any type of energy that comes from the sun.1
This energy is created by a process called nuclear fusion, which occurs when protons of hydrogen atoms violently collide in the sun’s core and fuse to create a helium atom.2
Nuclear fusion creates massive amounts of energy that flow from the sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR).3
How Does Solar Energy Work?
The energy created by the sun can be harnessed for use by humans on earth, thanks to technology that has existed since the 19th century. Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist, first demonstrated the ability of a solar cell to convert sunlight into electricity in 1839.4 A photovoltaic (PV) cell absorbs the energy from the sun with a material called a semiconductor, which converts the light into electricity.5
A solar panel is made up of connected PV cells. Solar energy in the United States took a leap forward with Charles Fritts, an American inventor. Fritts created the world’s first solar array on a New York rooftop in 1883, a year after the world’s first commercial coal plant was opened by Thomas Edison.6
Another important component of a solar system is the inverter (or inverters). Inverters convert the DC (direct current) electricity generated by solar panels into AC (alternating current) electricity that can be used by most appliances inside a home or business.
Advantages of Solar Energy
Why are so many people going solar in the United States?
- Solar Energy is A Renewable Resource
Most of the energy humans convert into electricity comes from non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels. Not only can these sources run out, but the burning of fossil fuels increases air pollution and the release of greenhouse gases, which scientists point to as a cause of the concerning rise in global temperatures.7
- Solar Energy is Abundant
Solar energy is an abundant resource. Approximately 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) of solar power continuously hit the Earth’s surface – enough to provide more than 10,000 times the world’s total annual energy usage.8
- Solar Energy Saves Money
Solar panels can provide electricity to a home or business that would otherwise be purchased from the local utility’s power grid. Even after the cost of a solar installation is factored in, this makes it possible to save money on utility
bills long-term. This is especially true once federal, state and/ or local incentives for going solar are factored in.
Sometimes you’ll hear about the disadvantages of solar energy, such as the appearance of solar panels or the lack of energy production at night. Solar panels are improving in appearance all the time; LG’s solar panels, for example, incorporate 12 thin wires in each cell that are almost invisible from a distance, giving our solar panels a uniform appearance not experienced with the thicker, larger busbars used in some solar panels. LG also provides all-black solar panel options.
As for the hours when solar panels aren’t generating, such as at night, it is now possible to store energy from a solar array in batteries that can discharge that energy later for use when the panels aren’t functioning. The LGE Energy Storage System, for example, comes in both AC-coupled and DC-coupled configurations that can be added to an existing solar array or installed with a new solar system.
The Future of Solar Energy is Bright
The solar industry already powers thousands of homes in the United States, and that number is growing every year. As of 2018, the industry provided jobs for 242,343 solar workers.9 LG Solar is committed to being a part of this growth by providing world-class solar panels, backing up our products with strong warranties and working with a nationwide network of LG PRO installers to meet the needs of homeowners and businesses around the country.
- “Solar Energy.” National Geographic. September 24, 2019.
- Sabas, Matthew. “History of Solar Power.” Institute for Energy Research. February 18, 2016. Web.
- “A Student’s Guide to Climate Change. Archive, Environmental Protection Agency. September 24, 2019. Web. https://archive.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/solutions/technologies/solar.html
- “The Causes of Climate Change.” NASA. September 24, Web. https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/
- Chandler, David L. “Shining brightly.” MIT News. October 26, Web. http://news.mit.edu/2011/energy-scale-part3-1026
- “National Solar Jobs Census.” The Solar Foundation. September 24, 2019. Web. https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/national/