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Putting Solar First

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After researchers at Bell laboratory discovered in 1954 that they could create a solid-state solar panel, many people wondered about the feasibility of using them as an alternative energy source. A lot of research continues to be put into developing this idea, and while much progress is being made, it may still be a decade or so before we realize the full potential of these solar panels.

The main benefit of solar panels is that they can be erected anywhere. Rooftop, field, Antarctica… it really doesn’t matter where, they can be used to generate electricity. The biggest disadvantage lies in their inefficiencies.

Silicon – the stuff solar panels are made out of – is extremely reflective stuff. Solar panels reflect a good deal more than they collect because of this one factor. Additionally, of the light it does collect, not all of it can be used. Due to the physical properties of electrons, only a portion of the sunlight received can actually be used to convert electrons to an active state.

Because of this solar panels cost about $4-6 per watt of energy they are capable of producing. That means for an average home that needs at least a 5,000 kilowatt setup, the initial outlay sill probably run upwards of $20,000. To make matters worse, customers in the far north will have to have extra production capacity to make up for the shorter days and lessened sun angle.

However, this research is leading to other uses of solar technology. 15 watt solar battery chargers are now on the market allowing motor enthusiasts to recharge batteries or run 12 volt equipment pretty much anywhere in the world. This is especially popular with the outdoorsy types that enjoy getting away from civilization and its conveniences.

Small panels like these run as little as $90, and can be used to charge electrical fences and well pumps, or maintain any 12 volt battery.

The future of solar energy progresses slowly. As people continue to look for ways to use the sun, we will continue to see that progress increase. It’s a circular type of thing, and will one day led to our energy independence.

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