Whether arrayed by the thousands in the desert, grouped by the dozen on top of a residential home, or singularly inserted into the front side of a pocket calculator, solar panels such as those used by electicity companies, provide energy for a variety of different environments and equipment. Their ubiquity is a sign both of their usefulness and their increasing role as a major source of energy in the coming decades. In essence, solar panels enable us to transform the sun’s abundant source of natural energy into electricity, which correspondingly alleviates pressure on existing energy supply systems without necessitating a complete overhaul of the existing infrastructure. In the next few decades, technological advances will undoubtedly make solar panels smaller, more efficient, and more flexible in their application.
Solar panels work by conducting the heat energy of the sun into electricity via a series of photovoltaic modules. There are two principal types of photovoltaic modules, which are distinguished by the type of materials out of which they are made. Photovoltaic modules are usually constructed out of either silicon of cadmium telluride. In order to function properly, the modules must be protected from moisture. The efficiency of the panel is based on how much energy any given module can generate, which is usually between 100 to 350 watts. Depending on the specific type of material used in the construction of the photovoltaic module, along with the range of solar energy the panel can convert into electricity, the efficiency of the panels range from 8 to a high of roughly 20. A solar panel with an output of 230 watts at 10 efficiency will therefore be twice as large in size as a solar panel with a output of 230 watts at 20 efficiency.
While most solar panels are currently rectangular and flat, advances in design may one day enable the panels to take a more flexible shape thanks to “thin-film” technology. However, even in their current form, solar panels are fairly durable and can be mounted almost anywhere. They are particularly adept in desert environments that regularly endure exceptional heat, which is excellent news for a planet that will likely experience an overall increase in average global temperatures. With the population expected to rise significantly, the need for an energy source that makes use of existing resources is particularly important.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of solar panels is that they can be used for commercial, residential, and technological applications. Unlike other energy sources that demand a certain scale usage to be practical, solar panels can be employed in virtually any environment without a substantial redesign or modification. This factor alone makes solar panels a wise investment for anyone interested in the future direction of energy usage around the world.