The sun releases tiny packets of energy called photons, which travel the 93 million miles from the sun to Earth in about eight-and-a-half minutes. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are made up of many solar cells. They’re constructed with a positive layer and a negative layer, which together create an electric field. When photons hit a solar cell, they knock electrons loose from their atoms.
If conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, it forms an electrical circuit. When electrons flow through such a circuit, they generate electricity. Together, these solar cells make up a solar panel. So the more cells you have, the more panels you have, and the more electricity you can generate.
Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity.
This flow of electrons produced direct current (DC) electricity, and homes and businesses use alternating (AC) electricity. Therefore, a box called an inverter is used to convert the DC electricity to AC so it can be utilised. Any excess energy is sent back to the grid, or into a solar battery if you have one.
Sending it back to the grid means you may get a credit on your bill in the form of a feed-in tariff. Batteries mean that the excess energy a solar system generates can be stored for use later even when the sun is not shining.
Therefore when you have solar, you’re generating your own energy instead of buying it from the grid, which can mean smaller energy bills and big savings.
Many people with solar don’t realise that they could be getting so much more out of their solar system – more savings on their bill, a lower carbon footprint, and added convenience in running their household.
A popular misconception is that solar panels work best on the hottest days. This simply isn’t true – in fact it’s quite the opposite. Solar panels have an optimal temperature (between 0°C and 25 °C) for when they perform best, and it’s not when its super hot!
But, during those long summer days the sun is up for far longer, which more than makes up for the impact. Even a cloudy day is sufficient to generate some solar power, although it is less than a sunny day.
Myth busted: despite popular misconceptions, winter is not the enemy of solar.
Solar energy offers a lot of potential, but a downside is it only generates power when the sun is out. To help with this, smart solar is the answer.
What is smart solar?
In order for solar to be smart, it needs the right equipment and software that provide visibility and control. Having a solar system without monitoring and control capabilities is like having a car without a dashboard, steering wheel, or even windows.
Without monitoring, all you can do is assume that your solar is working correctly until your next electricity bill shows up. Without control, you can’t take action to maximise the value of your solar energy.
What, then – in terms of equipment – is the difference between a smart solar system and an ordinary solar system? Generally speaking, your options are either a solar monitoring system or a home energy management system. But neither of these on its own will result in a smart solar system.
Off-the-shelf solar monitoring systems are easy enough to come by. These will give you visibility into how much energy your solar system produces – but no visibility into your energy consumption, and they usually lack the ability to ‘control’ your energy usage.
Home automation systems on the other hand, will often give you control of your household devices (for example Apple Home), but provide not visibility into what your solar is doing, and no insights into how to improve your home’s overall energy effectiveness – such as how to reduce your overall energy consumption or maximise your solar usage.
What you need is a home energy management system, like carbonTRACK. carbonTRACK is an intelligent technology that combines monitoring and home automation to make solar systems smart.
What can it do?
Making your solar system smarter and one cost effective package, carbonTRACK combines the visibility of a solar monitoring system with the control and insights only possible with an energy management system.