Solar power is one of the most important forms of renewable energy, and is becoming ever more crucial as a resource in our changing world. Scientists estimate that if we were to harness just 0.02% of solar energy available to us each year, it would generate enough electricity to completely replace fossil fuels and nuclear energy. So how do we harness this incredible resource? The answer lies with Photovoltaik. Photovoltaic panels (also known as PV panels) convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity which can then power homes and appliances.
History of Photovoltaics
The word ‘photovoltaic’ gets its name from the Greek ‘phos’, meaning light, and ‘voltaic’ from the 19th century Italian physicist Alessandro Volta. The process of creating voltage from solar radiation (known as the photovoltaic effect) was first recognised by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839.
Many different people experimented with this process over the next century, but it wasn’t until 1954 that scientists working for Bell Laboratories invented the first photovoltaic cell. The technology behind this device has been steadily advancing ever since, and has been used on everything from satellites to calculators.
The merits of photovoltaic technology have not always been universally acknowledged. In 1979, environmentally conscious President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House, only for them to be torn down in 1986 by his successor, arch-climate change sceptic Ronald Reagan.
How Photovoltaic Panels Work
Generating electricity through photovoltaics works on the same principle as a battery or a standard electrical outlet, as it is all about instigating the free flow of electrons through a circuit. When sunlight hits a photovoltaic panel, photons in the sun’s rays are absorbed through layers of semi-conducting material (such as silicon) in the panel’s cells. The photons then pass on their energy to electrons, causing the electrons to be released. This frees the electrons to move through the material, generating electricity as they go. The greater the intensity of the light, the more the electrons can move, and thus the greater the current generated.
Benefits of PV Panels
Getting photovoltaic solar panels fitted in your home contributes to our struggle against climate change, which is likely to become a major concern in years to come as the world shifts to a greater focus on renewable energy sources in place of traditional fossil fuels.
More immediately though, Photovoltaik panels allow you to create your own electricity, which means you won’t be beholden to energy companies who keep increasing the prices of electricity. Installing photovoltaic solar panels has become more and more popular in recent years, as advances in the technology has made prices less prohibitive and installation much easier. With cheaper purchase and installation costs, many homeowners now feel that PV panels are a good investment, as the initial outlay will be more than made up for by savings in the future.
Finally, what many people don’t realise is that photovoltaic panels are actually dependent on light intensity rather than on heat or direct sunlight, so fortunately for us in the UK they work even on the most overcast days!