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How does solar energy turn into electricity?

With the sun we can really make electricity and / or heat for a minimal carbon impact and at Aztechsolar we love the idea! Want to know how it works? Nothing very complicated. In a few minutes you will be knowledgeable about solar energy! Something to impress your guests during a dinner! And who might even know that you'll want to give it a go.

The different ways to get electricity from the sun

There are two methods of obtaining electricity from solar energy  :

The photovoltaic method very widespread in France, whether as solar parks or for private individuals.

The thermodynamic method can hardly be used by individuals and very rare in France because it requires a high level of sunshine . However, it is an interesting method to supply regions poorly connected to the network.

How to harness solar energy?

In the case of the photovoltaic method: we use photovoltaic panels (elementary my dear Watson). You know, those kinds of panels that you sometimes see on the roofs of houses (maybe even your neighbors have them?), That's solar power photovoltaic panels. These are made up of several cells , the basic material of which is the silicon contained in the silica (which is found in the sand therefore in abundant quantities on Earth). 

One of the peculiarities of silicon is that it is a semiconductor . This is a pretty incredible super power because it makes this material either a conductor of electricity or a insulation according to the conditions of its use. In the case that interests us, it acts as a conductor. When photons (particles of light) arrive on the surface of solar panels, they set in motion the electrons present in the cells of the panels, which instantly generates an electric current.

In the case of the thermodynamic method, it is a question of concentrating in a very intense way the energy of the sun to generate high temperatures . For this, we use mirrors or parabolas.

How is solar energy transformed?

For photovoltaic panels: once the electric current is generated, it is retained by very fine metal wires that are found in each cell of the panels. Thanks to this method, the cells will be able to generate a direct current which will then be, thanks to an inverter , transformed into alternating current compatible with the home network.

This inverter is connected to an electric meter(for individuals) which allows the electricity produced to be counted before injecting it into the national grid. This is why people with solar panels have two electricity meters: one to measure the amount of energy produced and the other to measure the amount of energy consumed. Solar parks work the same way as for individuals. All panels are linked and plugged into one or more inverters.

In the case of the thermodynamic method: the heat stored by the mirrors and parabolas reaches extreme temperatures which make it possible to generate water vapor capable of operating turbines and therefore of producing electricity.

Solar thermal energy: heat from the sun can also be used!

Now that you are familiar with how solar energy works, let us tell you about heat which is also a source of solar energy. The solar thermal energy also uses the principle of photovoltaic cells that capture sunlight during the day and then turn his light into heat following several temperature levels. This method differs from that of photovoltaic energy because it resides on the radiation of the sun captured thanks to a solar collector based on thermal absorption or conduction .

Solar thermal energy is often used to heat sanitary water, for example, and can also join thermodynamic energy by creating electricity through the water vapor generated by high temperatures.

What is solar energy used for?

Solar energy is a form of electricity with which you can generate heat or electricity. Unlike nuclear and fossil fuels , the sun represents an inexhaustible source of energy on a human scale and low polluting . In addition, this type of energy can be produced by any individual (provided you have the necessary equipment and reasonable sunlight), this is called self-consumption . You can produce your energy and then consume it. It is often with the latter that thermal solar energy is used (people use it to heat their sanitary water for example).

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