PacB Group // Solar Panels Provides a Much-Needed, Cost-Effective, Sustainable Energy Source


Solar Panels Provides a Much-Needed, Cost-Effective, Sustainable Energy Source

As the reserves of fossil fuels continue to dwindle and the threatened devastation of the environment posed by the continued use of coal, oil and gas becomes increasingly evident, there is far more at stake than the demise of the wealthiest cash cow in the history of commerce, and of those whose vast fortunes it has fed since the dawn of the industrial revolution. The race is now on to develop alternative and more sustainable methods by which to generate energy and among the first of these to make it past the starting line have been solar panels.

Though the equipment used bore no resemblance to the structures that adorn many of South Africa’s suburban rooftops today, the first use of the so-called photoelectric effect, to generate a current in response to a beam of visible light, actually took place way back in 1839. Alexandre Edmond Becquerel shone a light on to the surface of an electrode whilst it was immersed in a conductive solution and was rewarded with a measurable flow of electricity. Used later, mainly as a means to measure the intensity of light, it was more than a century before the development, in 1941, of the first photovoltaic cell that made possible the manufacture of the solar panels now in use.

To anyone who has focussed its rays on to a leaf or a piece of paper with the aid of a magnifying glass, the energy of the sun would have been obvious. Powered by a continuing nuclear fusion reaction that first transforms hydrogen into helium and then to progressively denser elements, the temperature of the sun ranges from around 1 to 15 million degrees Celsius. While its heat is sufficient to penetrate almost 150 million kilometres of space at close to absolute zero, and then earth’s atmosphere, to bathe our planet in life-giving warmth, it is its visible radiation upon which solar panels depend.

A photo-electric cell is composed of two layers: one of the semiconductor, silicon, and the other of metallic silver, although other combinations are used.  A photon striking the silicon layer causes it to emit electrons. These are then captured and passed by a connector to the silver layer where they are absorbed to generate a potential difference equal to approximately 1 volt. In order to produce the 240 volts required to power most equipment in South Africa, multiple photo-electric cells must be connected in series to form the much larger arrays that we know as solar panels. The direct current produced is passed to an inverter to create an AC output.

To ensure they capture as much of the sun’s energy as possible, it is common practice to include cells with different semiconductors, such as Indium Gallium Phosphate, Indium Gallium Arsenide and Germanium, to cover all wavelengths including invisible radiation in the ultraviolet and infra-red regions of the spectrum. With no moving parts to become worn, these units have a long life-span that ensures that the purchase and installation costs should be quickly recovered in the wake of substantially reduced monthly bills.

The use of this innovative solar panel technology is no longer confined to powering isolated residential and commercial buildings. Huge outdoor arrays have already begun adding to the output of conventional power stations in many countries including South Africa. Together with wind farms, hydroelectric plants and tidal power, they hold the promise of green energy and they key to a more sustainable future, independent of fossil fuels and the lethal products of their combustion.

Are escalating monthly electricity bills making it more difficult to maintain your living standard or to operate your business sufficiently profitably?  If so, solar panels could well be the solution. Why not have a chat with one of the energy experts here at the PacB Group about this cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative power source?

Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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