Introduction to Solar Technology

Photovoltaic cells, which make up solar panels, convert light into energy through the use of a semi-conductor, most commonly silicon. The light energy absorbed by the silicon “excites” electrons and causes them to become free. The resulting movement of these free electrons creates an electric current, which can power a laptop, light a home, or charge a battery.

If sun is producing the electricity, what happens at night?

Consider that the sunlight hitting the earth for one hour would provide the entire planet’s energy needs for a whole year. Therefore, availability of energy is not so much an issue as is the ability to capture it for later use. In developed countries, solar panels power homes during the day, and any excess electricity is returned to the electric grid (users recieve a credit for this excess electricity in a process called "Net Metering"). But in rural villages that cannot connect to an electric grid, energy produced but not consumed is wasted…unless it can be stored. This is easily accomplished by using a battery. The solar panels charge the battery all day long while the sun shines and the battery can provide electricity in the night time!

Ultra efficiency

By maximizing the efficiency of the lighting component, we can minimize the size of the solar panel, which will therefore reduce costs. We will do this by using products that employ Light-Emitting-Diodes (LEDs) to provide light. Compared to a standard incandescent light bulb, an LED is much more efficient. Anyone that has accidentally touched a light bulb after it has been on a while is aware of how much energy is lost in the form of heat, whereas an LED operates at a very low temperature.. And because there is no filament to burn out, the life-span of an LED is exponentially larger than an incandescent bulb. The table below summarizes the benefits of an LED compared to other light sources:

Efficiency (Lumens/Watt) Rated Life (Hours) Cost per 50,000 hours
Kerosene .03 Supply of Kerosene $1251
Incandescent Bulb 5-18 1000 $175
Light Emitting Diode (LED) 25-50 50,000 $20

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