What is solar energy?
Solar energy is the power that comes from the sun. The sun releases photons which are packets of energy. These photons can be harnessed and turned into photovoltaic power through solar cells. On the average, nearly half of Earth is exposed to sunlight at any given time, with peak exposure usually at noon.
Photovoltaic is literally translated as “light electricity”, derived from “photo” which means light and “voltaic” which means electric current or electricity. Solar cells, also known as PV cells, convert the sun’s energy into electrons and then into electricity.
Solar energy is known as the cleanest and most renewable energy. It does not emit harmful gases and neither contributes to global warming. Solar panels are very easy to install, with the technology now accessible to almost everyone in Australia.
In terms of solar radiation computed per square metre, Australia’s average is the highest amongst all the continents. This means that Australia’s solar energy is the best in the world because it receives solar radiation of about 58 million petajoules (PJ) a year. The desert regions in the centre and northwest of the country receive the highest solar radiation.
What are solar panels?
A solar panel is a collection of small solar cells. The cells are spread in a large area to collect light. The photovoltaic cells are designed in a grid-like pattern to maximise the collection of light. These photovoltaic cells then convert the collected light into electrons.
Crystalline solar cells do not wear out easily. Front glasses are also made of tempered glass which protects the surface of solar cells. Solar panels are now used to charge cars, mobile phones, calculators, watches, water purifiers, and light torches. A big solar panel may even power a full refrigerator.
Several years ago, solar panels were very expensive and solar power installation was frowned upon. Their efficiency rate during that time was only 17.8%. This figure has significantly improved to 22.5% today.
Because of technological advancements over the past years, solar panels have become more available and manageable. Studies show that solar energy collected and converted by solar panels can supply the energy demands of most countries. Currently, the solar panel system is utilised by more than 2 million households in Australia.
The Australian government, in its Clean Energy Initiative Solar Flagships Programme, aims to install a solar generation capacity of 1000 megawatts (MW). The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism also committed to support the construction of four solar plants amounting to $1.5 billion.
Why Solar Panels?
- They reduce electricity bills. You may now connect your appliances to the solar panel system and get free energy from the sun. Although the initial set-up cost for the system might be a little expensive, it will be worth your money in the long run.
- Solar panels are environmentally-friendly. As solar panels only need the power of the sun, they do not require fuel. As such, they do not emit greenhouse gases. Solar power is renewable, so you won’t have to feel guilty about depleting fossils and natural resources.
- You have access to back-up power. If you have a battery system, you may store the excess electricity in the battery and you may use it in case of a power interruption in the grid.
- They are safe to use. Unlike traditional sources of electricity, solar panels are safe to use and very easy to maintain.
Tips for Arranging Solar Panels
If you have been convinced to order your solar panels and you are now looking forward to the solar panel installation, you might want to know if you can install the solar panels on your own. Most likely, your concern will be where to put your solar panels and how they should be installed. As a general rule in Australia and everywhere in the Southern Hemisphere, solar panels should be facing north. If the panels are facing that direction, they will get the most light during the day.
Whilst a professional installer will also assist you in making the best decision for your needs, these tips can help you in arranging and installing your solar panels:
Check your roof
Before installing the solar panel system on your roof, check if the structure will be able to hold the solar panels. Some solar panels could be as heavy as 26 kilos per panel. With the latest technology, solar panels are anticipated to last for about 20 years. If it looks like you will need to renovate your roof in the next few years, do it first before installing the panels.
Audit your energy usage
Before deciding on how many panels need to be installed, you have to understand how much energy you need and what you will use the solar power for. If you consume a lot of electricity, you might have to cut down your usage, buy a solar panel with higher output or install more solar panels, and connect them together.
Capture the most sun
Higher light exposure means higher electricity output. The placement and angle of your panels will determine how much electricity you can collect. To generate the maximum power output, the rays of the sun should hit at a 90 degree angle.
Standard pitches of the roof in Australia are 15 degrees and 22.5 degrees, so solar panels will have to follow this tilt. Some roofs, however, are flat. It is recommended to add a 10- degree tilt frame to allow rain to run off the surface and get the most of the sun’s energy.
If the panels are laid flat, they will easily collect dust, leaves, and rain. Water may form a pool on the surface. What is the ideal angle for your location? Just simply look at your city’s latitude. If you are in Sydney, the ideal angle for your solar panel is 35 degrees. In Darwin, your ideal angle is 12 degrees.
Arrange your solar panels in a way that you will be able to adjust the tilt during the year, as the sun is 15 degrees higher during summer and 15 degrees lower during winter. It is best to adjust the tilt at least twice a year. During winter months, you need to tilt the angle of the solar panels to latitude plus 15 degrees. This means that if you are from Darwin, you need to adjust your tilt angle to 27 degrees.
You also need to observe the shade where the panels will be placed and check the positions of the sun in a day and adjust accordingly.
If your roof does not have a north side exposure, you may also have it installed in the west or east, although you may not get the most sunlight in a day. You may want to add more panels to compensate for the unutilised energy. This will be more costly and inefficient.
Connect multiple panels for higher output
If one solar panel is not enough to cover all your energy needs, you may consider connecting multiple panels. However, connecting different solar panels from different brands, output, and current are discouraged because this may affect the performance of your solar system. If you decide to connect multiple panels, here are a few reminders to minimise losses in the solar panel system.
Solar panels in a Series Connection. Connect the panels from the same brand in a series and same current. Mixing different brands and rated power may pull the overall output of the system down. Make sure that you only connect solar panels with the same current. If you have different brands, make sure that you have the same current.
Solar panels in a Parallel Connection. Connect solar panels that have the same brand or similar voltage. If you connect a 24V panel to a 10V panel, the voltage of the overall system will drop to only 10 volts. This means that there will be a reduced power output. If you have different brands, make sure that their voltages are the same.
Maximising Your Solar Panels
Summer is fast approaching and this is the best time to install your solar panels. You could get the most of the summer heat and save some money on your electric bills. Here are a few reminders for you to get the most out of the season and your solar panels:
Check your solar system regularly
Make sure that everything is connected correctly and that the solar panel installation is secure. Check the surroundings and ensure that there are no trees or buildings blocking the solar panels. If the panels are in a shade, they will have a lower efficiency.
Maximise the use of free energy source
If you are going solar, make sure that your gadgets and your electronics at home are converted or are compatible with solar power. It would be a waste of investment if you are going to use your solar power just to heat the water for the morning shower. You may opt to use solar power the entire day for all your appliances.
You may also consider getting a battery system where you can store excess solar energy during daytime. You may use this stored energy at night or during power outage. This means you will no longer have to rely on backup power from a generator set.
Make sure that the capacity of the battery you will use to store the converted energy is big enough for your needs. Battery storage for a home should be at least 100Ah at 12 volts. Lithium-ion batteries are considered the best choice for solar panels.
Improve energy efficiency
Look for solar compatible lighting options that are available in the market. You may also use LED lights and insulation.
Take care of your panels
Deionised water is highly recommended for keeping the solar panel clean. Solar panels in agricultural, industrial, and highly-populated areas are prone to dirt and grime and may need a weekly cleaning. Most people will use wet towels or you may just hose it down. Never use sponges and abrasives that may scratch the surface. You need to make sure that your panels are always clean to maximise energy collection.
Solar panels from Maxray have an extended 25-year warranty. Inverters, on the other hand, might have a shorter warranty. It is a lot cheaper to pay for warranty extension than pay for a new inverter.
Record your panel’s performance
If you want to monitor your system, you may log the output for the day and any heavy usage of the appliances. This will help you analyse if your solar panel is working at optimal level. This is also a good record to show the professional service provider during the annual checks.
Have a professional service the panels
Once every two or three years, it is best to have a professional check the solar panel system and conduct preventive maintenance. It is better to rectify issues early before it becomes a problem.
Clearly, the initial cost of a solar panel installation is outweighed by the benefits; its costs have also significantly decreased over the years. With a few changes in your home, you will be able to reduce or eliminate electricity costs. Even your next adventure would definitely need a power source that is portable and enough to last you for days.
Don’t waste your time thinking and visit Maxray.com.au for a list of affordable but dependable quality products. Maxray solar panel products are compact and lightweight and you can choose between folding solar panels and rooftop solar panels. The best part of it is you get peace of mind because Maxray offers a 25-year warranty for your solar panels. Browse through our products now!