Solar energy has been harvested organically by plants and microorganisms since the beginning of life.
The rate of energy generated by solar is measured in watts, which is the equivalent of 1 Joule of energy per second.
The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954.
The photovoltaic effect enables electrons to capture energy from photons (light) emitted by the sun.
The PV effect was first discovered by a French scientist named Edmond Becquerel in 1839, who noticed electricity generation from an electrolytic cell increased after exposure to light.
Solar energy produces no pollution, has no environmental effects and is ecologically acceptable.
The first solar PV cells were used to power early satellites and consumer electronics, not houses and buildings.
Innovative uses of solar PV technologies include phone chargers, streetlights and vaccine refrigerators where grid electricity is not guaranteed.
Solar PV systems don’t produce noise or chemical pollution while generating electricity.
Solar PV systems are extremely safe and have virtually no risk of chemical leaks, explosions or fire unlike other energy sources.
Solar PV systems don’t have moving parts and is very low maintenance, with panels lasting up to 35 years.
Solar technology has been applied to paint and woven into fabric.
Around 55-60% of solar energy from the sun is lost as it enters the earth’s atmosphere due to absorption and reflection of light.
The sun generates solar energy through nuclear fusion, where hydrogen atoms fuse together to create helium.
On average, the total rate of energy from the sun that hits the earth is around 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) or 173,000,000,000,000,000 watts.
Around 80% of sunlight that hits ice is reflected into space, whereas the ocean absorbs around 90%.
Juno is the furthest space probe to be powered by solar. The solar panels have an equivalent capacity of 12 to 14 kilowatt if it were powered on earth.
“Space-based solar power” (SBSP) is a concept of harnessing solar energy in space, where there is no night time or atmosphere. Energy is converted into microwaves, so it can be captured on Earth’s surface.
The cost of solar panels has dropped by 80% since 2008, and it is expected to keep falling.
There are 3 main types of solar cells: amorphous, polycrystalline and monocrystalline.
The first solar-powered calculators were invented in 1978.
World record solar efficiency was set in December of 2014 at around 45% efficiency.
If you don’t use the solar you generate, it is fed back into the grid unless you have a battery system. Most states pay a “feed-in” tariff to households that put electricity back to the grid.
Solar hot water systems work by extracting heat from the sun. They come in the form of “flat panels” and “evacuated tubes”
Australia has the highest average solar radiation than any other continent in the world.
Government rebates and incentives encourage more adoption of solar. Incentives in Australia includes high feed-in-tariff for households with solar, technology certificates to subsidise cost of buying solar panels and grants for building solar farms.
In 2016, the average installation size of small-scale PV systems was around 6 kilowatts or 6000 watts in Australia, approximately double the average size installed in 2013.
The total capacity of PV systems installed in Australia quadrupled between 2011 and 2016.
Australia is a leader in household solar, with more than 1 in 5 Australian households now using solar energy.
There is more than one solar panel installed per person in Australia.
Queensland and South Australia have the highest percentage of houses with solar PV at approximately 30% of all houses in their state with PV.
Australia’s total PV capacity at the end of 2016 is 5.44 gigawatts (billions of watts)
Unlike most other countries, most (approximately 85%) of Australia’s solar capacity comes from small scale solar (less than 10 kilowatt) rather than large solar plants whose capacity ranges from tens to hundreds of thousands of kW.
One reason for the polarity of solar PV in Australia is due to the very high household electricity prices compared to other countries.
The rate of energy generation from Australia’s National Energy Market is approximately 50,000 megawatts or 50,000,000,000 watts.
In 2015, solar passed the 1% threshold of global total electricity generation.
The solar capacity of the globe totals around 300 gigawatts.
The countries with the highest capacity of solar added are Japan (10.5 gigawatts), the United States (13 gigawatts) and China (34.2 gigawatts) in 2016 alone.
Germany leads the world in PV capacity per person, with around 473 watts per person, followed by Italy, Belgium, Japan then Australia (176 watts per person).
Electricity prices from solar have reached a tipping point and now became cheaper than coal in many parts of the world. The global average price of solar is set to beat coal by around 2025.
The global weighted average cost to build a utility-scale solar farm is predicted to fall by 84% from 2009 to 2025 from almost 5000 USD per kilowatt to around 1000 USD per kilowatt.
The record for the cheapest electricity on the planet was set by a Mexican solar plant at 1.77 US cents per kilowatt hour.
Price of electricity from solar is predicted to hit 1 cent per kilowatt hour before 2020.
As of June of 2017, the biggest solar farm on the planet is the Tengger Desert Solar Park located in China aka. “The Great Wall of Solar”. It covers 1,200 square kilometre of land (3.2% of the whole Tengger Desert) and has a capacity of 1500 MW.
Australia will build the world’s biggest solar and battery storage plant in South Australia with 330 MW generating capacity with 3.4 million panels and 1.1 million batteries.
Battery storage allows solar electricity to be used when there is no sunlight. It comes in multiple types including lead-acid, lithium ion and even salt water.
The energy storage market is projected to double six times (32 times bigger) from 2016 to 2030, with projected investments at 103 billion USD by 2030.
Solar panels combined with batteries enables homes to become “off-grid” and rely purely on the sun to provide electricity.
Microgrids are versions of the electricity network that comprises of an electricity generation source, delivery infrastructure and loads that consume this electricity.
Countries that have reached 95 to 100% renewable energy includes Iceland, Paraguay, Tokelau and Uruguay.