May 7, 2024

Harnessing the Sun: Solar Power in The Electrical Industry

sun shining down on a cluster of solar panels

Over 1.5 million solar installations have been carried out in the UK, with 2% of homes now generating electricity from rooftop solar systems.

The National Grid has also revealed that solar generation is now expected to increase from 14 gigawatts (GW) to 70 GW nationwide by 2030.

Solar energy — renewable energy harnessed from the sun for usable electricity and heat — is abundant, low-carbon, and can save the average homeowner £330 on electricity bills per year.

From standard photovoltaic panels to recent innovations like perovskite, solar technology will only continue to become even more affordable and efficient over time.

PV panels: 20% efficient on average

Photovoltaic (PV) panels are the most common form of solar technology.

These panels are packed with small cells containing conductive materials (usually silicon), which emit electrons once they come into contact with sunlight. This energy is then harnessed and directly converted into electricity.

Most PV panels are around 20% efficient at transforming sunlight into electricity.

Although this doesn’t sound like much, it’s still enough to generate sizeable energy savings for homeowners.

Researchers have also recently developed PV cells that are even more powerful and as much as 50% efficient.

Solar installation

This is where solar contractors come in.

Solar contractors are responsible for first evaluating a property’s suitability for solar installation. Although the technology is great, it may not be the right thing for every home.

A typical evaluation includes checking the size and condition of the roof, its orientation, and how much sunlight and shade it gets to determine how efficient the panels will be. During the installation process, contractors usually also need to install inverters and also batteries in some cases.

UK homes mostly use alternating current (AC) power, yet solar panels generate direct-current (DC) electricity, so the energy needs to be converted from DC to AC. As such, inverter units should be installed inside the home, and ideally somewhere that allows for easy maintenance.

And, while batteries aren’t always needed, they prevent energy generated via solar from ever going to waste. Solar batteries can store large amounts of energy (between two to 14 kWh) for later use.

Without a battery, the average household uses around 35%-50% of the electricity generated in total, whereas a battery can allows them to raise this figure to around 80%.

Safety for solar contractors

As solar installation is physically-demanding and risky work, safety should be a priority while on the job.

It’s important to be especially careful while carrying bulky components up to the roof, and when working near the edge (ladders should be properly secured, and proper roof ladders used).

In fact, fitness best practices can go a long way in helping contractors stay injury-free. Repetitive actions like carrying heavy loads, stooping, and twisting — which contractors do a lot daily — can put them at a high risk of musculoskeletal injury.

By simply performing warm-up exercises before work and maintaining good posture throughout the day, contractors can improve their core strength, joint and muscle flexibility, and ultimately lower their risk of accident and injury.

Perovskite: the future of efficient solar power

Researchers are also constantly working to develop solar cells that are even more efficient than existing designs. Perovskite cells, in particular, are a notable recent advancement.

Perovskite is a mineral with a unique crystal structure that’s able to recycle light particles. Just last year, scientists in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed double-sided solar panels made from a mix of silicon and perovskite.

In a groundbreaking technological advancement, both the front and back sides of these panels are able to harvest energy from the sun.

Purely silicon-based solar cells currently have an efficiency of around 26%, whereas, in comparison, the front of the new panel is slightly-less efficient (23%). The back side of the panel, on the other hand, is between 91-93% efficient, which results in around 20% more power in total when harnessing reflected sunlight.

Promising to lower energy bills and carbon emissions, solar power is transforming the electrical industry. From standard PV panels to exciting new innovations like perovskite, solar technology will become even more efficient and affordable as time goes on.

Thanks to Nina Clarence for the article.