Solar Energy 101
How Solar Works
Georgians can harness the sun's energy in a few different ways:
- Photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity.
- Solar thermal technology, where heat from the sun is used to make hot water or steam.
- Passive solar heating, which can be as simple as letting the sun shine through windows to heat the inside of a building.
Solar systems work when sunlight strikes a solar photovoltaic module (called a solar panel, or PV panel) and excites electrons trapped in the silicon solar cell. The electrons travel through wires on the back of the solar panel and into your house, to be used immediately or sent to your electric utility. During the night, power for your house is provided by your utility. And, because your solar system has no moving parts, and no mechanical wear and tear, it will last for many years with only minimal maintenance.
Solar water heating systems are comprised of a solar collector, insulated piping and a hot water storage tank. The solar collector gathers the heat from solar radiation and transfers the heat to potable water. This heated water flows out of the collector to a hot water tank, and is used as necessary in homes and businesses. Auxiliary heating can remain connected to the hot water tank for back-up if necessary.
Passive solar design refers to smart building planning that provides natural heating to a home or business. A well-designed building can capture heat in the winter and minimize it in the summer by utilizing simple techniques like using large south-facing windows and building materials that absorb the sun’s heat during the day and slowly release it at night. Natural daylighting – the use of natural light to brighten a building’s interior – is an added benefit of many passive solar designs.
Watch the video below to see how homeowners in the Big Canoe community in North Georgia incorporated passive solar design into their home: