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Humans have been capturing solar energy for centuries. In the beginning, we used solar energy to heat our buildings and our water. We then discovered that through changes in wind and ocean temperatures fueled by the sun, solar energy could also be harnessed through hydroelectric systems and wind turbines. Today, we know that there’s energy in biomass, in ocean waves, and in sunlight. In fact, there is so much potential to power the planet with solar that we’re currently capturing only a small portion of it!

So what are some of the modern ways we capture solar energy?

How Solar Power Works

The Power of Net Metering

Solar panels are a cost-effective solution to lowering your energy bill and still producing the same levels of electricity a utility company would. Solar panels generate high levels of electricity throughout the day while the sun is shining, making your electric meter spin backwards. The excess electricity produced during the day is stored on the grid as a bank of credit that can be used at anytime when you need more electricity in your home. This process of excess production and storage for future use is known as Net Metering.

Current “Net Metering” legislation requires utility companies to allow homeowners to place their excess electricity on the grid and remove it when needed, free of cost.  In the near future, these Net Metering laws will expire, allowing utility companies to charge new solar panel users high fees in return for access to the grid for personal use. PowerOn Energy recommends taking advantage of the power of Net Metering today.

Solar Thermal Water Heaters

Heating water with solar energy is not a new practice. Since the late 1800s homes have heated their water using solar power and it wasn’t until we discovered cheap fossil fuel energy that we started to see a movement away from this ancient practice.

Today, solar thermal water systems warm water for homes and buildings in a number of ways. Direct solar water heaters send water through tubes that loop through panels installed on the room, heating the water directly. Indirect systems, on the other hand, heat a transfer fluid that warms up and then passes the heat energy onto the indoor water system through a tank or other storage device.

Additionally, some systems are considered active because they require an electric pump to circulate the water or heat medium, while others are passive because they allow the natural convective movement of warm and cold water to circulate the fluids without a pump. Regardless of which type of solar hot water system you choose, these are highly economical solutions that provide significant energy savings.

Solar Photovoltaic Panels

This technology involves creating solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity. These solar cells are made up of conductive materials such as silicon spread in thin layers over small flat structures. They use chemical reactions to release electrons, creating a current through their quick movement.

Various technologies are implemented to either store this energy or use it directly. For storage, solar PV panels need to be connected to batteries for use later. In the more common direct use applications, the generated energy is converted into usable electricity for our homes, appliances, and even small devices like smartphones.

You Can Use Solar to Liberate Yourself from Expensive Energy

So how do you tap into the energy of the sun to save money? Today, with solar PV systems you can access net metering programs, which essentially let you store your renewable energy in the public utility system as you generate it and draw energy out of the utility grid as you need it.

Under net metering agreements with your utility provider, the energy you generate and the energy that you use are tracked in order to come up with a net positive or negative amount. Over the course of the year, you’re only required to pay the utility company for the electricity you used above what was generated by your renewable system. If designed well, your solar PV panels should generate a net positive amount of energy, leaving you with savings in your pocket.

Find out what you could be saving

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