We aim to give you the facts about Solar. Solar power, solar heating, solar cooking and living on solar.
There is a lot more to solar power than a lot of people think. It ranges from cooking using sunlight directly, to advanced solar panels (photovoltaic or PV) that convert the sun's energy into electricity.
Solar power technologies are advancing at a rapid pace and continue to drop in price.
Please see the menu on the left for our full sitemap.
Electricity is the movement of electrons through a conductor. Electrons are usually found orbiting the nucleus of an atom. Materials that have 'free' electrons are conductors. Metals are very good conductors.
Electricity occurs naturally, in lightning, in our bodies. Electricity has been known about for long time. 150 years ago electricity became more than a curiosity through the work of people like Thomas Edison. These people worked out how to generate to usable quantities of electricity. Two different forms of electricity were developed: Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC). In AC the electrons move in one direction and then the other. In DC the electrons move continously in one direction. There was a divide about which form to use as the standard, but AC was adopted. AC became the standard because it can be transmitted with less power loss, allowing less power stations and locating them further from cities.
This is an article written by Doug Kalmer about his DIY solar hot water heater:
"This Photovoltaic (PV) pumped hot water system has been working well, with no maintenance, for years on my house.I am now past the point where the money I invested in the solar water heater equals the money I would have spent on electricity to heat water. Most of the year, we have more free hot water than we can use. Consider the fact that in the next five to eight years you are going to pay the cost of a solar water heater,whether you buy one or not. I kept costs down by doing all of the work myself, and buying a used collector panel, but still created a long lasting, efficient, high quality system.
When people talk about 'solar' they mean using the sun's energy to do things we need or want. This involves a range of tasks, including cooking, water heating, building heating and power generation. Solar is renewable - we don't use up the sun by utilising it's energy.
On this page we'll discuss solar power.
Solar power differs from conventional power generation in that:
This is an article written by Doug Kalmer about his friend's DIY solar hot water heater, and follows on from his experiences with his own system:
"My 10+ years of success with solar hot water made my friend Bob want a similar system for his new house. Through word of mouth, I heard about someone in Huntsville who had a four panel solar system free for the removal.
It was installed in the early 80`s and heated domestic hot water, had fan coil units for space heating, and heated an inground pool. The systems installed then used electronic controls to operate valves and pumps, commonly the controls develop problems and parts and knowledgeable service techs are hard to find.
What's needed in a solar setup is dictated by what it is going to be used for. The method of power generation also plays a factor.
Assuming the actual generation is already taken care of:
If the system is setup just to generate power to feed into the grid (see Solar and Grid?), then usually only an inverter is required. If you want to power a house, then you probably need batteries and an inverter.
The best way to understand what will be each type of setup is to know a little about the components that may make it up.
This is an article written by Doug Kalmer about his experiences living on solar:
"In 1982 my wife and I bought 34 acres in Tennessee, and started to build our dream home, passive solar space and water heating, earth sheltered, post and beam framed, slipformed stone, with cedar cordwood infilled south wall. We had some money from selling a house I remodeled, but funds were tight, so we did all the work we could ourselves. We hired a track loader to excavate a 25' by 65' recess into a south facing hillside, and then hand dug footer trenches, poured 15 yards of concrete in them, and started slipforming stone walls. We placed locally gathered stone into the forms and mixed concrete with a gas mixer to fill around the stone. Once set up, the form could be moved, using the same forms over and over again to move down the walls.
You can be connected to the normal power grid but also have solar power. There are multiple ways of doing this:
This involves having seperate electrical circuits for solar power and for grid power. Usually this means lighting is provided by solar power. However, you are by no means limited to lighting. The systems just have to be kept separate. The rest is then supplied by grid power.
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including:
When we look at solar power in raw financial terms, then a few factors come to the fore:
The sun's energy can be used for more than just creating electricity. It is often used as hot water heating and house heating and has been for far longer than it has for electricity generation.
Hot Water Heating:
Usually consists of a holding tank, a solar collector and a means to circulate the water. Systems can be either direct or indirect.
Heat from the sun can be harnessed to cook.
There are three broad designs of solar cookers: box, panel and parabolic.
Box cookers are a simple box with a clear lid for light to enter. They may also have reflectors to increase the amount of light entering the box. The light enters the box and raises the temperature in the box, thus heating and cooking anything in there.
Panel cookers work by focussing light onto one spot with a number of flat panels. A pot or cooking vessel is placed where the light is focussed and becomes heated.