Solar Power

Solar energy is the fastest growing renewable energy source in the U.S.  The energy derived from the Sun is known as solar energy. Solar power is the energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy.  It is free and inexhaustible.  Earlier sunlight has been used by humans for drying crops, heating water and buildings for millennia until a twentieth-century technology turned sunlight directly into electricity.

There are two types of solar energy: thermal energy and electric energy.  Thermal Energy is used everywhere.  It lights up our days and heats the earth.  Electric Energy uses the power of the sun to produce electricity through solar cells, otherwise known as photovoltaics (PV).  Solar photovoltaic energy system is “a system of components which generates electricity from incident sunlight by means of the photovoltaic effect, and which shall include all components, including energy storage devices where appropriate, necessary to provide electricity for individual, industrial, agricultural, or governmental use”[i].

Solar photovoltaic energy system can be applied in three ways:

  • stand-alone;
  • grid-connected; and
  • back-up.

 

Stand-alone is a system that is not connected to the grid.  These systems are installed in remote areas where there is no utility-supplied power.  For example, remote holiday cottages.  A grid-connected system is used where utility supplied electricity is connected to the property, but the owners wish to harvest clean, free energy from the sun.  It is the result of a quest to live a more sustainable, environmentally friendly existence.  A back-up system is connected to an unreliable grid or one of poor quality.  It is installed in areas where a lot of power blackouts occur.

Solar energy is a renewable and inexhaustible source of energy.  Solar energy is produced by the fusion of hydrogen into helium, fusion of helium into other heavy elements, and so on. A large amount of hydrogen and helium is present in the Sun.  Therefore, solar energy can replenish on its own.  The Sun is expected to burn for another 5 billion years.

Additionally, the harnessing of solar energy causes no pollution or degradation of the environment.  Solar energy is freely available.  However, the devices used to harness it are costly and they have decreased efficiency.

Solar energy is used for solar heating.  Solar heating, with respect to any building, means “the use of solar energy to meet such portion of the total heating needs of such building (including hot water), or such portion of the needs of such building for hot water”[ii].

Solar heating and cooling and combined solar heating and cooling, also include a portion of the total cooling needs of the building, and also include cooling by means of nocturnal heat radiation, by evaporation, or by other methods of meeting peak load energy requirements at other times[iii].

A solar power meter for the house can run two ways.  By this facility, a customer is sending excess power back to the grid during daylight, and buying back in the evening.

In the U.S., the solar guide is The National Electrical Code’s Article 690.  The guide explains the requirements for installation and wiring of a solar system.  The common problems associated with the use of solar electric systems include excessive roof load, improper wiring, and unlawful tampering with water supply.

Certain requirements must be met to establish a solar power system.  In order for a solar power system to work, the customer must have an area that will always be exposed to sunlight.  Additionally, an agreement must be made with the owners of adjacent properties about obstructions that may hinder the collection of sunlight.  For example, buildings, trees, and landscaping.

Many of the states passed laws for the smooth functioning of solar power system.  For example, the state of California passed the Solar Shade Control Act of 1979, to prohibit shading of solar collectors by tree growth occurring after a solar collector has been installed.

[i] 42 USCS § 5582.

[ii] 42 USCS § 5502.

[iii] Id.


Inside Solar Power