A quick guide to Solar Photovoltaic Energy: facts & benefits
Solar Photovoltaic Energy is a type of renewable energy produced from sunlight. Besides the fact that it’s clean and green, it has many extra benefits, including extensive availability, the ability to increase energy security by reducing reliance on energy imports, and, most importantly, it can reduce energy bills!
What is Solar Photovoltaic Energy?
Solar Photovoltaic Energy is energy sourced from sunlight. It is a great source of renewable energy available throughout the world.
This type of energy is generated through the photoelectric effect: a photovoltaic cell absorbs the photons (light particles) in the sun’s radiation and converts them into electricity. Photovoltaic cells are made from thin-film semiconductor materials, such as monocrystalline or polycrystalline, and are put together to form the solar panels typically installed on roofs.
As well as solar panels on rooftops, photovoltaic power plants are becoming more commonplace. These allow for large scale Solar Photovoltaic Energy production. In a plant, hundreds of solar panels collect light particles and turn them into electrons. These are then converted into electricity in inverters, before going into transformers that raise the voltage. The electricity is then passed into transmission lines to be distributed across the country.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits to Solar Photovoltaic Energy. It’s clean, sustainable and can help reduce energy bills.
1. It’s renewable!
First and foremost, Solar Photovoltaic Energy is 100% renewable! During production, it does not release dangerous pollution (e.g. sulphur or nitrogen) and also does not emit greenhouse gases when used. In fact, Solar Energy actually helps to reduce CO2 emissions produced by energy sourced from fossil-fuels and can help reduce the world’s carbon footprint.
2. It uses little water
Another advantage of Solar Photovoltaic Energy is that it consumes very little water. The world does not have an unending supply of fresh water, therefore the amount of water used in energy production is becoming an increasing concern, especially in dry and hot regions around the world.
A nuclear power plant uses close to 800 gallons of water to produce one-megawatt hour of energy. Conversely, solar power only uses around 20 gallons of water per megawatt hour. This is a huge difference that further represents the environmental benefits of Solar Photovoltaic Energy.
3. It’s sustainable
Unlike water and fossil fuels, Solar Photovoltaic Energy is also sustainable. In other words, it’s not going to run out any time soon. As long as the sun is shining (which scientists predict will continue to happen for another 5 billion years), we will be able to produce solar energy.
4. It increases energy security
The security of the supply of energy can be distributed by a number of factors, including increases and decreases in fuel price, political instability in energy-producing countries, attacks on energy infrastructure, and natural disasters. Renewable energy, such as Solar Photovoltaic Energy, can help avoid these risks in two ways:
- It helps reduce air pollution and therefore limits the extreme weather caused by climate change that can damage energy infrastructure.
- Unlike fossil fuels, Solar Photovoltaic Energy is available throughout the world, which means countries can produce their own. This reduces the need to import energy from abroad, making countries less reliant on the energy produced by others.
5. It stabilises costs
Like all forms of renewable energy, Solar Photovoltaic Energy increases energy diversity. It is another energy source we can use, therefore reducing the reliance on fossil fuels. This means the energy market as a whole will be less vulnerable to the price volatility of fossil fuels and the costs of energy generation in the long term will stabilise.
6. It can reduce energy bills!
Finally, Solar Photovoltaic Energy can help reduce the energy bills of everyday consumers. Homeowners with solar panels can actually produce their own energy, meaning they do not need to buy as much energy from the national grid. Solar storage batteries also mean that any energy not used immediately can be stored and used during the night or gloomy days when the sun isn’t shining.
Moreover, there is an increasing number of UK energy providers that will buy any unused solar energy off consumers. This means that consumers can not only save money with solar energy but also make money by selling unused electricity back to the national grid.
Solar panels are getting cheaper, but installation costs are still quite expensive. However, they must be seen as an investment, with installation costs typically being paid for in 15 to 25 years. At the same time, more and more energy suppliers are offering renewable tariffs and installing solar panels. If you are interested in getting solar panels installed, it’s worth checking to see if suppliers offer payment plans so you don’t need to pay the full cost upfront.