How to Harness Solar Power to Lower Your Electricity Expenses

How to Harness Solar Power to Lower Your Electricity Expenses

Electricity costs have steadily risen over the past ten years, but going solar allows you to turn those increasing electricity prices to your advantage. Solar panels create electricity; if they generate more energy than your house needs, it is sent back to the grid for a credit on your utility bill.

Solar Panels

When properly installed, solar panels can produce significant energy to replace electricity from the utility grid. To calculate your potential savings, you should determine how much your average monthly electricity costs per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This will help you determine how large of a solar system you need and the size of your energy bills. Learning how to take advantage of state or local incentives would be best, which can drastically reduce your solar system’s cost and save money on electricity. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource for finding these incentives. In addition, you should know how to optimize your solar panel installation by performing a site assessment and ensuring that your roof is structurally sound and able to support the weight of the panels.

Additionally, it would be best to understand how to install and connect your solar panels following the manufacturer’s instructions. You can boost your solar energy production by adding an energy storage system to your home, which allows you to store electricity during the day to consume at night or on a cloudy day. In addition, you can take advantage of the benefits of net metering and time-of-use rates, which provide you with credit on your power bill for unused energy or allow you to sell the excess back to your local electric company.

Photovoltaic (PV) Cells

Solar power generates electricity by converting the sun’s light and heat into direct current (DC) electricity. The process relies on semiconductor materials, such as silicon, that convert sunlight into usable energy. Solar technology is an indefinitely renewable resource; however, PV systems still require storage to provide energy on cloudy days or at nighttime. PV systems are built from individual cells grouped into larger panels or modules. They’re used as a standalone home, commercial, and industrial power systems to supply grid-connected power. Solar electricity generated by PV panels produces no harmful greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and helping to protect the Earth’s natural resources for future generations. A solar cell is made from layers of semiconductor material, most commonly crystallized silicon. When photons from the sun strike these layers, they knock electrons loose from their atoms and leave behind empty spaces called holes that are positively charged. To make a working solar panel, these “holes” are filled with impurities – most often boron and phosphorus – that facilitate the flow of electricity.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

The energy from the sun is gathered by mirrors in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants and converted into heat. This hot steam then drives a turbine to generate electricity. The technology is used mainly in large power plants and can be combined with thermal energy storage to provide 24/7 baseload generation. Its ability to store heat overcomes intermittency, which is the chief drawback of other renewable technologies. The Department of Energy and private CSP ventures are pursuing improvements and cost reductions for this promising solar energy technology. CSP plants can be configured in many ways, but two of the most common are parabolic troughs and solar power tower systems. Another type, linear focusing CSP, utilizes rows of flat mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto elevated linear receiver tubes. As a renewable energy technology, CSP produces no emissions during power production, so it can help reduce your carbon footprint. Its primary byproduct is waste heat, which can be used for other purposes, such as water desalination. Because of its capital costs, CSP is currently more expensive than PV and wind power, but it is gaining ground. The technology is also being explored to remove CO2 from the air. Scientists have developed carbon capture technology that can use low-grade heat to eliminate the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

Solar Furnace

Using your solar system to offset more electricity consumption at home can considerably reduce your annual electricity bills. This is possible if you use appliances with a lower wattage during the day (such as dishwashers and washing machines) and switch off appliances at night or use timers. Installing a battery or energy storage system is another way to lower your electric bill since this technology allows you to store excess solar power during the day for use at night when your system isn’t producing as much. Some utilities now charge different energy prices at different times of the day, with higher rates in the afternoon and lower costs at night. Using solar to offset the highest-cost energy usage periods can dramatically lower utility costs. 

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