Solar energy takes the energy produced from the sun and converts it into the type of energy that can power your house. New solutions for creating electricity from solar are being created all the time, but there are two main ways solar power is generated:
Solar panels: sit on the roof and convert the energy in sunlight to electrical energy. This is in the form of direct current (DC) electricity.
Inverter: Transforms DC electricity to alternating current (AC) power. This is the type of power, which is required for your home and the grid.
Switchboard: This is where the power is sent to so it can be used by your household electrical equipment.
Grid/meter: if you are not using all the power that is being generated, the overflow will be transferred back into the grid to be used by other households or businesses. Likewise, when you need more power than you are producing (at night) your house will draw electricity from the grid.
We all want to do as much as we can to protect the environment, so the question then becomes, are solar panels moving us in that direction?
Although solar panels produce zero emissions, their manufacturing does have an environmental impact. For example, building photovoltaic solar panels requires the use of chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrochloride acid. Both of these substances can be harmful to people and the environment. This process also uses water for cooling and produces greenhouse gas emissions as a result.
On top of this, not all solar panels are created equal. You can view the 2016-17 Solar Scorecard, to see which companies perform the best from an environmental perspective.
Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive. This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. Renewable energy already supports thousands of jobs in Australia.
Solar energy can potentially help to cut your energy bills in two ways:
By using solar energy as a power source, you will lower your dependence on your energy provider(which may assist in reducing your energy bills).
If your solar power system produces more energy than you use, excess energy will feedback into the main electricity grid. When this happens, your energy retailer will buy this excess electricity at an agreed price (known as a feed-in tariff). This too may help to lower your overall energy expenses.