How Does It Work? Solar Energy
BY: Amy Levin-Epstein
Solar power is the next green frontier, with websites promoting DIY kits and local governments offering rebates for installation. But how does solar energy work? And are rooftop panels the only way to use it? I turned to Caroline Howell, owner of GreenBeanie, a green home and lifestyle consulting firm based in Southern California, to shine some light on solar power.
Solar panels seem to be an increasingly popular way to power homes. How do they work?
Solar panels are installed on a roof or area with good sunlight exposure. The panels are made up of photovoltaic (a.k.a. PV) cells, which capture sunlight and create energy. The power is then transferred to an inverter, which converts it to electricity. From there, it travels to your home’s electric panel. If you’re creating more electricity than you are using, your meter will turn backwards.
So do we all need to switch to solar?
The cost of installing solar panels is high. We should all be focused on energy conservation first. But if you live in a sunny climate, renewable solar energy is something to consider.
What are some easier ways to use solar power?
My favorite solar gadget is my solar flashlight. It stays charged on the windowsill on the sunny side of my home. Solar outdoor lights for your garden are easy to install, and solar chargers for iPods and cell phones make great gifts.