A solar panel is a panel that has been designed to absorb energy from the sun’s rays to generate electricity or heating.

A solar panel or photovoltaic module typically consists of 6x10 solar cells.  These solar panels constitute the solar array of a photovoltaic system designed to supply usable solar energy.  Each module is rated by its DC output power under standard test conditions and usually ranges between 100 to 365 watts.  As a single solar module will produce only a limited amount of power most installations contain multiple modules.  A photovoltaic system will usually consist of solar panels, a solar inverter to convert the electrical current from DC to AC, cabling and mounting and other electrical devices to set up a working system.

Solar panels get exposed to varying climatic conditions including rain, hail, snow load and cycles of heat and cold over the years.  The conversion efficiency of solar panels can also be reduced by dust, grime, pollen and other elements that may accumulate on the solar panel.  “A dirty solar panel can reduce its power capabilities by up to 30 percent in high dust/pollen or desert areas", says Seamus Curran, associate professor of physics at the University of Houston and director of the Institute for NanoEnergy, which specializes in the design, engineering, and assembly of nanostructures.

The wattage of the solar panel is probably one of the most important things to consider.  If you underestimate the power or wattage required you could be very disappointed with the end results, and if you overestimate then it could prove very costly.  The three main things to consider when choosing a solar panel or system are;

  • How much energy can your battery store
  • How much energy will your appliances use over a period of time
  • How much energy can a solar panel generate over a period of time

There are various websites that can help you calculate the above required information.

According to the Energy Saving Trust in the United Kingdom the benefits of solar electricity include the following;

  • Cut your electricity bills. Sunlight is free, once the initial installation is paid for, your electricity costs will be reduced.
  • Get paid for the electricity you generate. The UK government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme pays you for the electricity you generate, even if you use it.
  • Sell electricity back to the grid.  If your system is producing more electricity than you need, you can sell the surplus back to the grid through the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

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