Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, which can be used in homes and businesses or sent back to the grid. This power can be used to save on electricity bills or to offset the cost of energy produced by fossil fuels.
The most obvious use of solar energy is on homes, where the panels can provide all or part of a home’s electricity needs (Fig. 19.1). They can also provide a valuable income, as homeowners may receive subsidies and/or credits for their solar installation from local authorities or electricity companies. Go here
Solar panel installations are now a familiar sight on public buildings such as schools and council offices. They can also be found on modern farm buildings, where their gentle pitch and large areas of unoccupied space make them well suited to generating renewable energy. In the UK, it has also become commonplace to see solar panels on the roofs of railway stations, such as London’s new Blackfriars Station which is designed with 4400 solar panels, Fig. 19.4.
Solar Panels vs. Traditional Energy Sources: The Ultimate Comparison
Getting the most from solar panels requires careful design. Scientists have developed anti-reflective coatings that can be applied to the front of solar cells to prevent useful light from being reflected away into space without ever hitting an electron in the cell. Electronics can be built into the solar cell that allow it to track the sun as it moves across the sky (single- or dual-axis tracking) or even move with the changing seasons.