The power of the sun
Spring is officially here now! In the northern hemisphere the official start of Spring is marked by the vernal equinox. At this time, the sun rises and sets 12 hours apart so the day and night are close to equal. From now on daylight continues to grow longer until the Summer Solstice or Midsummer.
In the past humans had a special relationship with the sun and there are many ancient sites and buildings all over the world which were built to measure the passage of the sun. You can find examples of structures built to interact with the sun during the vernal (Spring) equinox in Mexico, Malta, Cambodia and of course the UK with Stonehenge, as well as many other locations around the world.
Scientists have continued to study the sun and develop more sophisticated ways of measuring and capturing the energy it emits. We are now able to capture energy carried in sunlight and use this energy to heat water and create electricity. Since light is the energy source, it doesn’t have to be a hot day for solar technology to work but the more hours of sunlight we have, the more energy can be captured.
The simpler technology is to use the energy from sunlight to create heat which is then transferred to water. A solar water heater consists of a collector which turns the energy in sunlight into heat. This heat is then transferred either directly or indirectly to water which is then stored until needed.
The technology to produce electricity is more complicated and relies on quantum mechanics. Without getting too deep into the physics, a photovoltaic cell is formed from silicon crystal which contains atoms and when the photons in sunlight hit the solar cell, electrons are shaken loose from the atoms. When these electrons flow through an electrical circuit which is created if conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, they generate electricity. A solar panel is made up of multiple photovoltaic cells and the electricity generated by the photovoltaic cells is DC (Direct Current) electricity. However, the power grid and appliances within the home all use AC (Alternating Current) electricity so the DC power from the solar panels is sent to an inverter which inverts the DC power to AC and this can then be used to power all the appliances in the home.
As the sun is four and a half billion years old and is expected to have about five billion years of life left, the energy collected from sunlight is renewable energy. Indeed, you can argue that solar power is the cleanest, most reliable form of renewable energy available. Using solar energy can drastically reduce the negative impact that we have on the environment plus sunlight is free.
Solar water heating has been widely adopted and here in Spain it is now easier to generate and consume your own solar electricity. Spring is a great time to take advantage of the longer daylight hours and make the most of the sun’s energy.
For more information on solar water heating and self-consumption solar electricity systems, contact Free-Sol Solar at email@example.com or make an appointment to visit our new showroom near Alhama de Murcia.