Frequent questions

Questions about solar energy

Questions about solar energy

Solar energy is a renewable energy source that in recent years has gained considerable strength as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The simplicity and advantages of solar energy offer many installation possibilities for small producers. However, before considering the viability of an investment of this type, numerous questions about solar energy may arise.

Below we will try to resolve some of these doubts.

What is solar energy and how does it work?

Solar energy is the energy generated by the sun's radiation. It is based on the capture of sunlight and its conversion into electricity or heat using technologies such as solar panels.

Solar panels contain photovoltaic cells that transform sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. These cells are composed of semiconductor materials, such as silicon, that release electrons when hit by photons of sunlight. These electrons are collected and converted into usable electrical current.

What are the benefits of solar energy?

Questions about solar energySolar energy offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Sustainability: The sun is an inexhaustible source of energy, making it a long-term sustainable energy source.

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: By using solar energy, dependence on fossil fuels is reduced and, therefore, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, which contributes to combating climate change.

  • Savings on energy costs: Once installed, a solar system can significantly reduce your electricity bill by taking advantage of free sunlight.

  • Energy independence: Solar energy allows users to generate their own electricity, reducing dependence on traditional electrical grids.

  • Added value to property: Installing solar systems can increase the value of a property.

What is the difference between solar thermal and photovoltaic energy?

Solar thermal energy is used to generate heat, while solar photovoltaic energy is used to generate electricity. In solar thermal energy, sunlight is captured to heat a fluid, which is then used to produce steam and generate electricity through a turbine. Solar photovoltaics, on the other hand, directly convert sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic cells.

Are solar thermal and photovoltaic installations compatible?

Photovoltaic modules capture photons from sunlight and transform them into electrical energy. Solar collectors take advantage of solar heat to obtain domestic hot water. Both systems are compatible in the same installation.

Hybrid solar panels can also be installed. Hybrid panels are made up of photovoltaic cells but they also take advantage of the thermal energy of this energy source.

Where is solar energy used?

Solar energy is used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Electricity generation for homes and businesses.

  • Water heating for domestic or industrial use.

  • Generation of electricity for agricultural irrigation systems.

  • Powering solar lights and water pumping systems in remote areas.

  • Charging batteries for portable devices and electric vehicles.

How much does it cost to install a solar energy system in a home?

Questions about solar energyThe cost of installing a solar energy system in a home varies depending on several factors, such as the size of the system, geographic location, and quality of components. Overall, costs have decreased significantly in recent years due to technological advances and incentive policies.

Expenses can range from a few thousand dollars for small systems to tens of thousands of dollars for larger systems. However, it is important to note that over time, a solar system can generate significant savings on your electricity bill and can offer an attractive return on investment.

What government incentives are there for solar energy?

Many governments offer incentives to promote the adoption of solar energy, including:

  • Tax Credits: Solar system owners may be eligible for tax credits that reduce installation costs.

  • Subsidies and financing programs: Some governments offer direct subsidies or low-interest financing programs for the installation of solar systems.

  • Feed-in tariffs: In some places, solar system owners are paid for the electricity they generate and feed into the grid.

  • Property Tax Exemptions: Some jurisdictions offer property tax exemptions for residential or commercial solar systems.

How long does it take to pay off a solar installation?

There are different factors that determine the amortization period of an installation:

  • The correct calculation of the needs of the solar installation.

  • System optimization.

  • Proper installation and quality of materials

  • Public subsidies obtained.

  • The use given to the solar panels. 

  • The schedule of solar radiation during the year.

  • The climate of the area.

On average, thermal installations pay for themselves in approximately 4–6 years. In turn, photovoltaic installations are amortized after 7-9 years.

What is the relationship between the amount of sun received and the performance obtained?

Solar cells not only capture solar radiation during clear days. The diffuse radiation existing during cloudy days can also be used but at a lower efficiency.

It should be noted that the electric current is generated from solar radiation, not from heat, therefore cold does not represent any problem for photovoltaic use. In fact, like most electronic components, photovoltaic panels work more efficiently at lower temperatures, always within limits. 

Does solar energy affect climate change?

Questions about solar energyNot directly. The use of solar panels does not emit greenhouse gases. Furthermore, since it is renewable energy, it does not consume natural resources. It is considered to be a clean energy that does not harm the environment.

However, the manufacturing processes of the components of a solar installation do cause the emission of harmful gases.

Are solar panels compatible with electric generators?

Yeah. The production of electrical energy by photovoltaic modules is variable. There may be cases where an electrical power is required that the panels are capable of offering. In these cases, electrical generators make it possible to produce the energy that is needed.

Hybrid solar systems are solar systems that are supported by another energy source. This source can be electrical generators or wind turbines (wind energy).

How should solar panels be placed?

Solar panels operate best if they are placed in a location where they receive full sunlight. They can be placed on the roof of a house or office, on a support structure, mounted on the facade or on the ground. It is preferable to avoid places that receive shade at least during the central hours of the day. 

The ideal inclination of the panels varies depending on the latitude in which we are located. Normally 45° are used in thermal and 30° in photovoltaic facing south.

What is the maintenance of a solar installation?

Questions about solar energySolar installations require minimal, preventive maintenance. Two aspects to take into account are:

  • Ensure that no obstacles cast a shadow on the panels

  • Keep the panels clean, specifically the sides exposed to the sun. 

In the case of solar thermal energy, it is necessary to be careful with low temperatures to avoid freezing of the fluid. In the case of long periods of inactivity of the solar installation, it is necessary to prevent the fluid from reaching too high a temperature.

Solar energy has experienced impressive growth in recent decades, becoming a source of clean and sustainable energy. As solar technology advances and becomes more accessible, a number of important questions arise about its use and potential. In this article, we will address some of the most frequently asked questions about solar energy and provide informative answers to help you better understand this renewable energy source.

How efficient is current solar technology?

The efficiency of solar technology has improved significantly in recent years. Typical photovoltaic solar panels have an efficiency ranging between 15% and 22%, meaning they convert 15% to 22% of sunlight into electricity.

However, there are more advanced solar panels with efficiencies greater than 22%. The efficiency of solar thermal panels has also improved, with systems that can achieve efficiencies greater than 80% in converting sunlight into heat.

Does solar energy work on cloudy or rainy days?

Questions about solar energySolar systems continue to generate electricity on cloudy or rainy days, although at a lower efficiency. Although production may decrease under these conditions, solar systems are designed to be able to generate power even in low light conditions.

Additionally, electricity generated on sunny days can be stored in batteries for use on cloudy days.

What is the useful life of a solar system?

Solar panels typically have a lifespan of at least 25 to 30 years, although many continue to operate well beyond that period. Most solar inverters have a lifespan of around 10 to 15 years and may require replacement over the life of the system.

However, with proper maintenance, a solar system can continue generating electricity for decades.

How much space is needed to install solar panels?

The amount of space required for installing solar panels depends on the size of the system and the efficiency of the panels. On average, between 100 and 400 square feet of space are needed per kilowatt peak (kWp) of installed capacity.

Typical residential systems range from 3 kWp to 10 kWp, requiring between 300 and 1,000 square feet of available roof or ground space.

Can I sell excess electricity generated by my solar system?

Yes, in many places, you can sell excess electricity generated by your solar system to the electric grid through feed-in tariff programs or net metering agreements. This allows you to obtain compensation for the electricity you produce and do not consume.

Compensation policies and rates vary by location and electric service provider, so it is important to consult with them to understand the specifics of selling solar energy.

Is solar energy suitable for any geographical location?

Solar energy is suitable for most geographic locations, but its efficiency varies depending on the amount of sunlight available. Regions with more sunny days and less cloud cover are ideal for solar energy generation.

However, even in less sunny areas, solar systems can be a profitable investment due to tax incentives and savings on electricity costs.

Is solar energy an affordable solution for developing countries?

Solar energy has become an increasingly affordable solution for developing countries. Installation costs have decreased, and generating electricity from solar sources can be a cost-effective solution for communities that do not have access to traditional electrical grids.

In addition, solar energy contributes to improving the quality of life and reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Is solar energy a reliable energy source?

Questions about solar energySolar energy is a reliable energy source, but its availability is subject to weather conditions and the day/night cycle. Solar systems are becoming more reliable thanks to technological advances and guarantees offered by manufacturers.

Additionally, the use of energy storage systems, such as batteries, can increase reliability by providing power at night or on cloudy days.

What is the future of solar energy?

The future of solar energy is promising. The technology is expected to continue to improve in efficiency and cost, making it even more attractive. As more advances in energy storage are developed, solar energy will become a more reliable and available source of energy at all times.

Additionally, supporting policies and sustainability efforts will contribute to its growth and adoption globally.

Publication Date: December 10, 2009
Last Revision: October 30, 2023