Solar Power Panels – An Introduction

Many, if not most people, when they hear the term ‘solar energy’ or ‘solar power’, will probably imagine solar electric or ‘photo-voltaic‘ panels – those shiny things on house or office roof tops that make electricity. (The term ‘photo-voltaic’ simply refers to the process by which sunlight is converted into electricity). But creating electricity from the sun is just one piece of the Solar Energy ‘pie’. The other big slice is solar ‘thermal’ energy – this is where we use the sun’s abundant (and free!) radiated heat to warm things up, and then put that heat to use elsewhere – for example in a solar hot water system, or heating your swimming pool. Of course, indirectly the sun provides us with wind energy too – if you’re interested in this feel free to browse our other green energies section for more great information.

The solar energy world is a big and complex place, a massive industry spread accross the planet, and this website will help you learn about some of the most interesting areas, some of the history, current products you can get right now, and where future research is taking us as a global community. New product developments are announced daily, new companies are created, others growing or in some cases being aquired. It’s a fast-paced and exciting environment.

We look at solar powered hot water systems, one of the most widely implement technologies in the solar world. The concept is simple – pump water through pipes inside glass panels on the roof on a sunny day and the water gets hot – then use that heat (instead of expensive electricity) to warm the water in your tank. As you may expect, companies are ever-improving the efficiency of these systems, and making them cheaper to install.

Solar assisted air conditioning systems use thermal technology to ease the workload of the compressor/condenser unit of your HVAC system. This can cut half of your cooling cost out with efficiency ratings up to a staggering 32 SEER!

Solar attic fans can be a great alternative to standard ridge vents, since they poactively draw the hot air from your attic and work harder when they get more sun!

And of course we review and discuss full photo-voltaic solar electric systems, looking at every aspect of production, installtion, efficiency, and return on investment. These systems are now prevalent in every facet of our lives, in residences, commercial installations, military bases & powering more and more of our transportation.

Here you’ll find solar power calculators, and a range of articles and tools designed to help you make an informed decision about generating your own power instead of giving all that money to the utility company. Let’s face it, can you imagine a scenario where your utility company sends you a letter saying “Hey, great news! – We’re slashing your electric bill by 10% and guaranteeing no more increases for 30 years!” Erm, no. However, with solar energy solutions this is now a real alternative.

The US Military takes solar solutions seriously, and we look at some of the equipment in use today and being developed by our armed forces.

From the perspective of the ‘green movement’, it doesn’t get any better than solar. The crazy notion of burning fossil fuels to create energy will eventually be history – either we can get ahead of the curve and make ‘alternative’ energies the new ‘standard’, or we can just run out of fossil fuels to burn. It appears that we’re at the tipping point. A study recently showed the solar industry in the last few years has finally crossed the barrier to a net reduction in the planet’s carbon emissions – previously it had taken more energy to produce the solar panels & associated products & install them than they saved!

Clearly the solar power business is here for good. It may scare many of the utility companies, and certainly some of them are reacting badly, but that’s their problem to solve. For example, the Jacksonville Electric Authority in Florida has installed a huge solar farm and is now selling solar photo-voltaic generated electricity alongside coal-burning traditionally generated power.

In addition, as you browse the site, if you decide you want to talk with a local expert and get a no-obligation quote, click on the ‘Find an Installer‘ link at the top of any page – they can tell you about your own local utility & government incentives, assess your return-on-investment, survey your proposed installation site, and discuss your solar solution in detail. You can find links to a bunch of organizations for researching your solar project here.

Meanwhile, you can click on any of the links around this site to learn more about the solar industry and its products. A great place to start is Cool Solar Products – take a browse!