As people search for alternatives to fossil fuel energy, solar energy emerges as one of the cleanest and most practical sources of electricity. Solar panels can be installed on rooftops or any area that receives a lot of sunshine. The solar panels consist of a photovoltaic system that converts the energy of the sun into electricity.
Photovoltaic systems have existed since the 1950s but only in recent years has the technology matured to the point of making it a viable alternative to power utilities. Indeed, most solar systems do not replace the utility company, instead they work in conjunction with it to produce extra electricity that can be fed back into the grid.
One of the main problems with solar power is storing it for use during non-daylight hours. Batteries can be used but they are expensive and have a limited life span. As an alternative, excess solar electricity can be fed back to the power utility company for a credit, and then power can be drawn when needed. In a sense, the utility company becomes the storage device.
Most municipalities have legislation requiring power utility companies to accept electricity produced by solar panels or wind turbines. This system benefits everyone ? there is less dependency on fossil fuel power plants and electricity costs are reduced for owners of photovoltaic systems.
Photovoltaic cells produce electricity by using specially treated materials such as silicon that convert light into power. They can be of almost any size and are suitable for providing electricity for small items such as calculators or watches right up to complete industrial complexes. Because they can be wired together, an array of solar cells can produce enough electricity for residential or commercial needs.
The main requirement, of course, is sunlight. This makes solar power most practical for southern areas such as California and Arizona. But it can also be used in more northerly areas as a backup power system. As the technology advances, photovoltaic cells are able to produce usable amounts of electricity even in low light conditions.