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Understanding the Basics of Solar Panels For Alternative Energy

Eric Gehler

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Most people are familiar with solar panels even if they don't initially realize it. One of their first applications for consumer use was in solar calculators. Since then, using solar energy as an alternative power source has become more popular. Homeowners and businesses use paneling systems to generate “off grid" energy. Today, they're used for broad range of applications that include light towers, roadside call boxes and even satellite systems.

As the cost of utility energy continues to rise and the likelihood of sporadic blackouts as unpredictable as ever, many people are exploring solar power as an option. In this article, we'll provide a brief overview of how solar panels work. We'll also discuss their use for small businesses and factors to consider when investing in a paneling system.

Photons, Electrons And Photovoltaic Cells

Solar panels store energy from the sun. That energy is converted into electricity to power lights, appliances and to heat water. The panels are comprised of photovoltaic cells that are constructed from silicon. When sunlight hits these silicon cells, the energy (in the form of protons) is absorbed. Once trapped within, the sun's energy causes electrons along the silicon walls of the cells to detach themselves. These electrons are charged through metal implants in the solar cells and encouraged to flow in a particular direction. They form the electrical current from which we can derive power.

Solar Panels For Business Use

Many small businesses have installed solar panels as an alternative energy source. There are a few reasons why they do so. First, many states offer energy credits, rebates and even tax incentives to businesses who use solar panels. In some locations, business owners can even sell their excess solar energy to the utility companies. Second, solar panels offer a cheaper source of electricity. Though the upfront investment is usually substantial, the annual cost savings for energy usage is attractive for many business owners.

Weighing The Cost Of Investing In Solar Panels

For many businesses, the initial investment to install a robust array of solar panels can seem staggering. To generate enough power for small office buildings, restaurants and mid-sized grocery stores, the paneling systems can cost more than $100,000. That being said, the combined benefits of energy cost savings each year, tax incentives, energy credits and the ability to sell excess solar power to local utilities may make the investment sound reasonable.

Should Solar Power Replace Utility Power?

While there are people who have chosen to live completely “off grid" (that is, they've essentially severed their connections with their local utility), small businesses should be wary of doing so. Because solar power and the electricity the panels can output are dependent upon the sun, some business owners will find that even large arrays of panels aren't able to generate enough power. For most businesses, maintaining their active account with the local utility is more sensible. Then, investing in a redundancy solution such as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can help ensure a constant flow of electrical current if a power outage occurs.

Power Systems & Controls is the industry standard for Uninterruptible Power Supply and Frequency Converters


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