What Is Solar Energy?

If you’re wondering “what is solar energy and how does solar power work,” then you’ve come to the right place. Basically, solar energy is heat and light energy from the sun. Solar energy keeps our planet at a temperature that’s just right for supporting complex life. The sun’s rays also help plants produce food and indirectly feed larger animals. The sun’s energy is so potent that in one hour, it provides enough solar power to meet the world’s energy demands for a whole year. Solar panels help us tap into that abundance of solar energy.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells that react with light to produce electric current. When sunlight hits the semiconductor material of the PV cells, electrons inside the cells are freed from their atoms and flow through the cell generating electric current. This electricity travels through the solar panel system to light your home, run appliances and power your home’s HVAC system.

Now you know how solar energy works, but did you know that solar panels can work independently or connected to the utility grid? Off the grid, any unused power that the solar panels generate is lost without a means to store it. If panels are connected to the grid, the homeowner may be able to feed unused power back onto the grid. Some utilities offer net metering programs where the utility pays homeowners for their contribution to the grid. Net metering programs like this can help homeowners lower, or possibly eliminate, their electricity bills.

Why solar power for home is a great option

Now that you understand how solar panels work, you might be starting to see why solar solutions are gaining ground in the home energy market. But here are a few more reasons:

Green, renewable energy. Clean energy is one reason why solar power is a great choice for homeowners. Electricity is generally produced from burning fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas. Cleaner sources, such as wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear energy, make up a small percentage of power generation in the U.S. Solar power for home gives homeowners the opportunity to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and shrink their carbon footprint. It can also save a lot of money because electricity is produced onsite and independently of the utility.

Falling prices. Historically, the major drawback to solar energy was finding a way to harness it that was both efficient and economical. Solar panel efficiency has improved greatly in the last 30 years, and although the price of solar power for home has come down and continues to fall, it can still be expensive to buy, install and maintain home solar solutions. Even with government rebates, financing and net metering programs, solar power for home can cost a lot upfront.

Leasing options. However, a relatively new option is gaining popularity and helping homeowners save on their electricity bills. Solar leasing is a way to get solar solutions for your home without having to bear the burden of a large upfront investment. Homeowners can lease the panels from a solar company, which will perform maintenance on the home solar system and lock in electricity rates for a term of years. Homeowners then get to enjoy the benefits of onsite power generation from a clean, renewable energy source at an affordable rate.