What Is Solar Energy?

In the most simple sense, solar energy is energy that comes from the sun (as sunlight) and that is then either used to create electricity or transfer heat.

How energy from the sun is collected and used determines what type of solar energy it is. For instance, a passive solar system is one that “passively” uses the architectural, landscaping and design elements of a structure to capture the heat produced by the sun and heat (or cool) the interior of that structure by transferring heat throughout the interior. Because the sun’s energy is free (and essentially infinite), maximizing passive solar techniques before using active solar energy strategies is a popular choice for those switching to solar.

On the other hand, an active solar system is one that “actively” collects solar energy, typically using some sort of mechanical device like photovoltaic (PV) panels or solar thermal collectors, then converting that energy into usable electricity or heat. Roof-mounted solar energy systems with sunlight-collecting panels are the most common a type of active solar energy system, but other types (such as parabolic dishes that focus sunlight into a single point) exist as well.

How Does a PV Solar System Work?

A PV system uses photovoltaic cells (also called solar cells) grouped together in panels.  Groups of panels are wired together to form arrays.  The more panels in an array, the more solar energy that is collected and produced.

Each solar cell is made of two layers of semiconductor (usually silicon) material that sit behind a protective layer of glass. Photons striking one layer of the silicon, “kick” loose an extra electron to the second layer.  This creates an imbalance which results in electric current. Because the layers have opposite charges, the electrons, or current is only allowed to flow in one direction.  Circuitry embedded in the silicon allows the electrons to be collected as direct current (DC) and channeled for use. An inverter is used to convert the DC to usable AC. The inverter is usually mounted near the main electric panel/service for easy connection and access.

Sunvest Solar Inc. is a general contractor with access to many different manufacturers for solar panels. We provide complete solar panel installation for:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Government
  • Churches
  • Schools
  • Non-Profits
  • Tribal