Directly or indirectly, all power on earth comes from the sun. The power of the sun is immense – every square metre of sunlight to fall on the earth provides the equivalent of 1kW of power.
This power can be harnessed in several ways, with varying amounts of efficiency. For micro generation, the most common ways to harness this power is through solar hot water heating, solar electricity generation and ground source heat.
In order to use solar power, you need a site with a lot of direct sunlight, a south facing location with little or no shade.
Solar Hot Water
- Solar hot water is one of the most efficient ways of generating power, with modern solar hot water systems converting between 50-75% of the sun’s power into heat. Solar panels heat up fluids which are then run through a heat transfer unit to heat up water for use in your home.
During the summer months, a solar hot water system can provide enough hot water to provide all the hot water a typical household will need. During the rest of the year, solar hot water supplements the existing hot water system.
Typically, a solar hot water system can save £50-80 a year on the cost of heating hot water for a typical family home.
Solar PV electricity panels have traditionally not been as popular as solar hot water systems. However, with the falling costs of photovoltaic panels and the rising costs of energy bills, these are becoming more popular.
Depending on the type of solar PV panel used, solar electricity can convert between 6% and 22% of the suns energy directly into sunlight.
Solar PV panels typically generate electricity at either 12 volt or 24 volt. The power is typically stored in a battery and then either used with low voltage appliances, or inverted to 240 volts using a power inverter. A solar panel controller is used to stop the batteries from being overcharged.
Thanks to their modular design and low voltage, Solar PV systems are easy to design and safe and simple to construct, which make them ideal for DIY projects.