In the simplest definition photovoltaics takes light energy and convert it to electrical energy. They do this because of the Photovoltaic effect. The Photovoltaic effect can be described as the voltage created by the suns electromagnetic radiation exciting electrons in a solar cell. This creates a DC electricity which can be used to power just about anything. Some solar cells can even work at night! They do this by capturing the infrared radiation. Wow that is cool! Although, that is a while off before real world applications can be made.
Each solar cell will be able to convert only a small percentage of the electromagnetic radiation in to electricity so the cells are usually connected together in a series creating a cumulative charge. Solar panels need to be protected and are often encased in a class and steel enclosure making them incredibly durable. Then they can be placed on your home and start saving you money.
There is huge potential in the solar power industry with more efficient solar cells being created all the time, but it should be noted that they can not in their current state solve the world's energy problem. They are plagued by efficiency issues and cost.
The average solar cell will convert somewhere between 5-25% of the suns energy into electrical current. As mentioned earlier this is a direct current, and must be converted to alternating current to be used in our power grids. Converting incurs a 4-12% energy loss.
They are also fairly expensive, an average home will cost $25,000 to $50,000 to go totally solar, and that means it will take 20 years to see a return on the investment.
What this means for your home
We at Key Energy Solutions love solar power and would love for everyone to have solar panels on their roof, but with the high initial costs of solar panels we think solar is at their best when used as a supplementary power supply. For instance to power a fan that helps equalize the "heat pressure" in your attic. The attic fan harnesses the power of the sun using a solar panel and then will draw heated air out of the attic in the summer, reducing the work load of your attic fan, and also help eliminate moisture build up year round. This will reduce your energy consumption and alleviate worry about mold and mildew build in your attic. The best part is once installed, our attic fan, uses the suns energy all year which means you wont pay another dime to have it work for you!