Palmetto Clean Energy News & Solar Energy Blog

Solar Energy Basics 101: What Everyone Should Know


The world of solar energy is a beautifully clean and refreshing place. From the moment sunlight glints off the shiny solar panels and sends a wonder of electricity through the conductors and into your home, it revitalizes the world around it with its clean energy while saving you money. How exactly does solar energy work to bring you that clean electricity? Here’s the rundown of the entire process. It comprises the solar energy basics that every person should know before going solar.

The Foundation of Solar Terms - What Everyone Should Know About Solar.

First, you should understand a few terms that solar professionals might mention as you proceed with installing a solar energy system. You’ll likely hear the words kilowatt or kilowatt-hour brought up.

A kilowatt refers to a unit of electricity that any electric system uses: the watt. A kilowatt is simply one thousand units of a watt. A kilowatt-hour refers to how many thousands of watts you might use in one hour, a measurement that all electric companies use for billing.

In addition, you might wonder about the terms AC/DC and photovoltaic. In the solar world, DC refers to the direct electric current created by the sun’s energy as it channels through the solar panels. AC indicates the alternating electric current used to power the home. If you hear someone talking about photovoltaic energy, they’re talking about electric voltage that is created by light, particularly sunlight.

Next, you might come across information about the efficiency or capacity of a solar energy system. The system’s efficiency refers to how much energy it can produce from the sunlight it captures.

Since the panels lose some of the electricity in the transfer process, designers and installers like to know exactly how much energy they can expect from each panel. Last, the capacity of the solar panels refers to the entire amount of electricity the system can generate.

The Building Blocks

Now that you have the foundation laid for understanding solar, we can move onto the next level of solar energy basics: how it works. Essentially, the solar panels installed on your home capture the sun’s energy and turn into usable energy for your home. Designers use semiconductors to accomplish this task.

To make the solar panels, the designers produce small photovoltaic cells and attach them together. Once the panels are actively working on your rooftop, they will capture the sun’s energy throughout the day. Then, a solar inverter will convert the electric current produced from DC to AC, allowing you to use the energy in your home.

If you have connected your system to the electric grid, the electric meter will record how much energy you produce with your system. In the event that the system generates more power than you need, the electric meter will actually go backward.

At that point, other homes on the electric grid can use the excess solar energy, and you will receive a credit for the energy. During cloudy or stormy weather, you can then use some electricity from the grid, letting your energy credit balance out any costs incurred. In the meantime, you’ll be relaxing on your sofa, assured that your solar energy system is making the world a better place with each kilowatt produced.

You might have known that solar energy would help you make the world a greener place, but you might not have understood exactly how. With a few easy terms and an explanation of the solar energy basics, you can easily understand all that you need to know before going solar personally. Then, you can step into the solar world with confidence, watching proudly as solar professionals install a system on your own home.