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Category: Solar Energy

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What is solar energy? 10 Important things to know photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system

What is solar energy? 10 Important things to know photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system

In short, solar energy systems also known as solar panel systems, solar power systems, solar photovoltaic systems or solar PV systems convert sunlight (a form of energy) into electricity. You can use the electricity produced by your solar photovoltaic (PV) system to power your house, or your business.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the energy emitted from the sun (a natural nuclear reactor). Our planet captures more than billions of photons (tiny packets of energy) from the sun every day. These photons control the climate and support life on earth. 

Where can we use solar panel system?

Today, solar panels or solar energy systems are used for several purposes, which fall into these three main categories:

Residential solar energy systems: Residential scale solar panel system typically ranges between 1 and 20 kilowatts (kW) where you can mount solar panels on your roof or in open ground.

Commercial solar energy systems: Commercial scale solar PV systems are larger than residential solar energy system and are installed on commercial properties for electricity purposes.

Utility solar energy systems: Utility scale solar power systems are typically larger than the rest. Their installations can produce electricity starting from a few megawatts (MW) up to gigawatts (GW) range. They are used to provide solar energy to a large number of utility customers.

How Solar Energy Works

1.     Solar panel systems help you reduce or eliminate your bills.

If you are a homeowner or a business owner, utility (electricity and gas) bills take up a huge chunk out of your monthly income/ savings. Through solar financing, adding a customized solar energy system to your property can drastically reduce or even eliminate your utility bills and you can start seeing immediate savings.

2.     Solar power system saves you from load shedding.

If you have a solar energy system installed, you do not need to worry if your utility has a blackout. Load shedding does not affect you and your family in any way when you are on solar.

3.     Solar panel system gives a great return on investment.

Installing a solar panel system provides an even better return than stocks and prize bonds. Moreover, it is hassle free, compared to all the running around you will be doing when you are playing in the stock market. It is the right time to make that investment, as solar photovoltaic technology is improving day by day, solar energy systems are becoming cheaper and more durable.

4.     Solar photovoltaic systems have become more and more robust.

Solar PV panels are made of hardened glass and can withstand all weather conditions (snow, rain, and high winds). They can even extend the life of your roof by protecting it from daily wear and tear. They are becoming more and more durable due to technological advancements in the solar industry.

5.     Solar energy systems can produce electricity for more than 20 years.

Most solar panel manufacturers offer 25 years product and performance warranties, which guarantee that their panels will continue to generate electricity for 25 years.

6.     Solar photovoltaic panel systems require little or no maintenance.

Except for unforeseen circumstances, solar PV panels are almost maintenance free. All they require is periodic cleaning, usually two times a year.

7.     Solar PV panels can be installed almost anywhere in Pakistan.

Being a solar-rich country, most locations in Pakistan get enough sunlight to produce sufficient electricity from solar panels. The most important factors to consider when you evaluate your solar panel options are the rate at which you pay your electricity bills, your site-specifications, and the incentives available to you.

8.     Solar energy systems can be grid-tied or off-grid.

Depending on your selection, you can choose to remain connected to your utility’s grid in case you want to sell your excess electricity. Alternatively, you can choose to completely go off-grid and be independent from any grid outages and blackouts.

9.     Solar power systems helps you save money

There are plenty ways in which you can save money by installing solar energy systems. One way is by selling by excess and unused electricity back to the grid. You can gain credits from your utility company, which can help you in times of need. Another is in terms of your property value, if your house has a solar power system installed, it will fetch a better price in the real estate market.

10.  You can install solar panels anywhere on your property.

Solar panels can be installed practically anywhere on your property, provided that area receives direct sunlight for most of the day and is not shaded by trees or buildings. Most panels that face south will produce the most electricity, but your panels can also face other directions depending on your location.

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Solar Energy Keeps the Environment Clean

Solar Energy Keeps the Environment Clean

Renewable solar energy protects the environment and keeps it pollution-free.

‘We’re losing the race’: UN secretary-general calls climate change an ‘emergency’.

A 2012 study titled ‘Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions in Pakistan’ by an international development agency called USAID reported that Pakistan’s GHG profile is dominated by emissions mainly from the energy sector which contributes 46% to the total GHG emissions.

Pakistan’s GHG emissions had grown 87% within a span of 12 years that is from 1990 to 2012. The average annual change in total emissions during this period was 2.9% with the energy sector leading the annual change with 3.8%.

Although Pakistan’s contribution to global GHG emissions is less than 1%, it is among the most vulnerable countries facing the threat of climate change. According to the German Watch Global Climate Risk Index (2018), among the 10 countries most affected from 1997 to 2016, Pakistan is at the seventh position with an annual death toll of approximately 523 lives which totals to a loss of 10,462 lives in 20 years and economic losses worth $3.8 billion.

Many Pakistani property owners especially homeowners are choosing to go solar because they are focused on minimizing environmental issues like climate change and health problems related to GHG emissions. According to a research-based survey conducted on 300 households in Lahore by the Pakistan Meteorological Department, the average household emits approximately 2.6 metric tons or 0.0026 gigagrams of carbon pollution each month.

With every owner (residential, commercial or industrial) that has a solar energy system installed on their property, promote a cleaner environment and make a positive and long-lasting impact on Pakistan. By installing a solar energy system, a typical four-person household can reduce its carbon emissions by more than four tons annually.

How, exactly, does a solar energy system reduce GHG emissions? The electricity that solar panels produce is completely CO2 free. When you use a clean and renewable resource like solar energy to meet your energy needs, you reduce the demand for electricity from your fossil fuel (coal, crude oil, and natural gas, etc.) driven utility. As a result, your power plant emits less carbon when producing the power needed to meet customer demand.

By 2030, the government of Pakistan plans to reduce national GHG emissions by 20%. One way this is being done is by promoting renewable energy especially solar among homeowners, business owners, and factory owners. Given the current circumstances, the impact of your decision as a real estate property owner to use solar as your main source of electricity could be very significant for Pakistan and its people.

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Solar Energy Creates Jobs

Solar energy creates jobs and boosts local economy.

The financial benefit of using solar energy creates a compelling argument for homeowners and businesses, and the overall economic impact of solar is just as positive. To know how economic impact of solar is positive, we need to look at Pakistan’s available statistics.

According to the statistics report presented by World Energy Outlook, at least 27% of Pakistanis live without access to electricity. Another study sponsored by International Finance Corporation (IFC) presents a bleaker picture by reporting 36% Pakistanis have no electricity.

A published research by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics states that as of June 2018, Pakistan’s population has reached 212.82 million people with an unemployment rate standing at 5.79%.

Keeping the above statistics in mind, if more and more Pakistanis were to go solar, the solar energy industry would grow thereby creating a national industry which would provide high-quality employment opportunities across the country.

Based on the ‘Demand-Supply’ principle, if more property owners (buyers) go for solar, more low and middle skilled workers (sellers) will be providing this service. This way the solar energy economy could offer more opportunities and better pay. Many solar installers who own locally owned businesses will flourish if you supported them by bringing more money into local economies.

Solar Provides Employment

The best part is that as more Pakistanis embrace energy independence by adopting solar power and other renewable energy sources, the effect will be seen throughout the market; an increase in solar energy produced during peak hours, such as a scorching hot summer day, equals decreased utility grid demand, and decreased utility grid demand means lower costs of energy during peak hours. The reality is that solar has the potential to bring the price of energy down for every person across Pakistan.

In 2012, even Saudi Arabia, one of the largest oil producers in the world, recognized the economic and political advantages of energy independence and announced a goal to increase its solar capacity to 41 gigawatts (GW) by 2032.

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Pakistan’s Energy Independence

Pakistan’s Energy Independence

Renewable solar power makes energy independence possible.

Our planet captures more than billions of photons (tiny packets of energy) from the sun (natural nuclear reactor) every day. These photons determine the climate and support life on earth. Even though the sun is the massive source of energy, its benefits have not been exploited to its full potential.

It is estimated that Sixty Four Thousand (64,000 km²) square kilometres or Twenty Five Thousand (25,000 mi²) square miles of solar panels (an area roughly half the size of Thar Desert in Sindh), can generate abundant electricity to power the whole world. By investing in solar power, you can help take advantage of the sun’s abundant resources and bring Pakistan one step closer to energy independence. 

Energy independence is the goal of reducing Pakistan’s dependence on foreign energy imports, particularly imported oil, coal and petroleum. Economically, supply and price stability drive the concept of energy independence. With a more diverse array of energy sources to draw upon, Pakistan can become more secure in these economic considerations. Politically, energy independence will allow Pakistan to remain politically flexible in international relations.

Global energy markets are notoriously volatile, and changes in prices can have a significant effect on the Pakistani economy. You are experiencing this fluctuating trend in many forms; if we look at the average closing price per barrel of crude oil every year in the international market, we see a significant rise. From the year 2000 to 2018, crude oil prices have risen from $30.38 to $64.90 per barrel. Note that in 18 years, the price has more than doubled.

This fluctuation has an impact on our daily lives. We all buy oil from countries to satisfy our thermal energy needs. Why is that? Wouldn’t it be better to be energy independent?

The adoption of solar energy is increasing in Pakistan. Just look back 10 years; there were fewer renewable energy systems in Pakistan than they are at the present moment. So, at least things are moving in the right direction. When we expand our capacity to generate electricity using solar, we inherently protect ourselves from the ever-changing unstable market fluctuations and ensure a clean and sustainable source of energy for the future.

The best part is that as more Pakistanis embrace energy independence by adopting solar power and other renewable energy sources, the effect will be seen throughout the market; an increase in solar energy produced during peak hours, such as a scorching hot summer day, equals decreased utility grid demand, and decreased utility grid demand means lower costs of energy during peak hours. The reality is that solar has the potential to bring the price of energy down for every person across Pakistan.

In 2012, even Saudi Arabia, one of the largest oil producers in the world, recognized the economic and political advantages of energy independence and announced a goal to increase its solar capacity to 41 gigawatts (GW) by 2032.

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Going Solar Increases Your Property Value

Going Solar Boosts Your Property Value

An installed solar energy increases property value by 3-4%

According to Pakistan’s largest property portal zameen.com, Pakistan’s high inflation makes it appear that home prices are increasing strongly. But reality that is not the case. Nationwide house prices rose by 5.05% to PKR 10,875/- (US$ 77) per square feet (sq. ft.) during the first quarter of 2019.  However when adjusted for inflation, house prices actually dropped 3.98% over the same period.

Among multiple studies carried out in developed nations, a recent research by an affiliate of U.S Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) shows that homeowners who have installed solar energy systems on their houses can sell their property at a higher price compared to those without one.

LBNL’s 2015 report studied sales of solar-equipped homes in eight different U.S states over 11 years with the goal of determining just how much value solar adds to a home’s sale price. The key finding: on average, homebuyers are “consistently willing to pay PV home premiums” of approximately PKR 700/- ($4) per watt of installed solar capacity.  

For a standard 6-kilowatt (6 kW) solar panel system, this means that solar can add approximately PKR 3,900,000/- ($24,000) to your home’s resale value. Although this study is carried out in the U.S, it holds value in Pakistan’s real estate sector indicating a positive trend. 

Giving one simple example, suppose you own a house in F-7, Islamabad where an average monthly rent of a 1 kanal (20 marla) house without a solar energy system is around PKR 200,000/-.

If you were to install a solar energy system on your house, you would firstly be inviting more prospective tenants and also dictating your monthly rent. If by thumb rule of 3% along with the rent. there were a solar energy system installed on your home you could drive up the rental income by (plug and play) and want to give it on rent. Your prospective renters would pay you more because it ensures their convenience by not paying high utility bills.

Seeing the current market trends, buyers are keenly taking more interest in properties with solar installations and as homebuyers become more educated about solar, demand for properties equipped with solar energy systems will continue to rise.

As of August 2019, Pakistan’s inflation rate stands at 11.63 percent. Don’t worry you have no direct control over inflation; It’s the government that makes the policies and drives the economy.

Ask yourself a hypothetical question; is the cost of a Toyota Corolla the same it was twenty years ago? Common-sense says it’s not. Why is that? This is mainly due to inflation.

Taking this example, just imagine what would your utility bill be, say five (5) years from now? The current market trends indicate they would definitely be much higher. Over the last ten (10) years, electricity prices have risen up at an average of nine percent (9%) annually and the utility companies are known for their fluctuating and unreliable prices. 

The typical Pakistani home spends about PKR 180,000/- annually on electricity. If you buy a system that meets 100 percent of your electricity needs today, you will have an extra PKR 180,000/- in your pocket a year from now.

The following year, when prices rise up by 9%, you’ll save about PKR 196,200/-. Your savings will continue to grow for the 25+ years that your panels generate electricity, adding up to well beyond PKR 4,905,000/- over the lifespan of your system.

Even if you don’t have enough money to buy a solar energy system up front, you can still reduce energy costs by financing your solar panel system with a solar loan. Most solar financing options require no down payment and reduce your monthly expenses from day one of installation. As an added benefit, your monthly energy costs will no longer fluctuate – they will simply be the monthly

Now your expenses are:

  1. Predictable
  2. Lower than your conventional utility bill
  3. Consistent over time, without any fluctuations or increases

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Relief from Utility Inflation

Relief from Utility Inflation

By using solar you protect yourself from rising utility costs

As of August 2019, Pakistan’s inflation rate stands at 11.63 percent. Don’t worry you have no direct control over inflation; It’s the government that makes the policies and drives the economy.

Ask yourself a hypothetical question; is the cost of a Toyota Corolla the same it was twenty years ago? Common-sense says it’s not. Why is that? This is mainly due to inflation.

Taking this example, just imagine what would your utility bill be, say five (5) years from now? The current market trends indicate they would definitely be much higher. Over the last ten (10) years, electricity prices have risen up at an average of nine percent (9%) annually and the utility companies are known for their fluctuating and unreliable prices. 

Relief from Utility Inflation

The typical Pakistani home spends about PKR 180,000/- annually on electricity. If you buy a system that meets 100 percent of your electricity needs today, you will have an extra PKR 180,000/- in your pocket a year from now.

The following year, when prices rise up by 9%, you’ll save about PKR 196,200/-. Your savings will continue to grow for the 25+ years that your panels generate electricity, adding up to well beyond PKR 4,905,000/- over the lifespan of your system.

Relief from Utility Inflation

Even if you don’t have enough money to buy a solar energy system up front, you can still reduce energy costs by financing your solar panel system with a solar loan. Most solar financing options require no down payment and reduce your monthly expenses from day one of installation. As an added benefit, your monthly energy costs will no longer fluctuate – they will simply be the monthly

Now your expenses are:

  1. Predictable
  2. Lower than your conventional utility bill
  3. Consistent over time, without any fluctuations or increases

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Solar Saves Money by Reducing or Eliminating Utility Bills

This topic explains how and why solar saves money by reducing or eliminating your utility bills

“Considerably reduce or completely eliminate your utility (electricity and gas) bills with solar energy”

If you own a property (residential, commercial or industrial) in Pakistan, utility bills take up a huge portion out of your monthly budget (income or savings). In Pakistan, utilities which are supposed to be a basic commodity are very expensive and not everyone can afford paying such high prices every year.

A study by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), an independent and non-partisan think-thank shows that energy demand in Pakistan is increasing every year by more than nine percent (9%) and is likely to increase 8-fold by 2030 and 20-fold by 2050 in Pakistan.

One of the major reasons of using solar is that you can to considerably reduce or significantly eliminate your utility bills. A lot of research is being carried out in developed countries like the U.S to prove just that, even though utilities are comparatively stable and predictable there.

For a Pakistani homeowner, an average monthly electricity bill of Pakistani Rupees fifteen thousand (PKR 15,000/-) adds up to PKR one lac and eighty thousand (PKR 180,000/-) in twelve (12) months. Further adding that up (without considering inflation) in twenty plus (20+) years amounts to PKR thirty six lac (PKR 3,600,000/-).

To summarize, you’ll be paying your utility companies (IESCO, LESCO, K-Electric, SNGPL, etc.) PKR 180,000/- each year and in twenty plus years you will be paying them PKR 3,600,000/-. Using a customized solar energy system makes you less susceptible to the rising cost of utilities and even takes you out of this cycle.

By using solar energy, you can eliminate your utility bills completely or reduce them considerably until they are no longer a significant factor in your budget. Your savings with solar depends on different factors, like how much energy your system produces and how much you consume, but the biggest factor is the rates you would otherwise pay to your utility.

Ask yourself a hypothetical question; is the cost of a Toyota Corolla the same it was twenty years ago? Common-sense says it’s not. Why is that? This is mainly due to inflation. Don’t worry you have no direct control over inflation; It’s the government that makes the policies and drives the economy.

Taking this example, just imagine what would your utility bill be, say five (5) years from now? The current market trends indicate they would definitely be much higher. Over the last ten (10) years, residential electricity prices have risen up at an average of 9 percent (9%) annually and the utility companies are known for their fluctuating and unreliable prices. 

Keeping this in view, if you invest in a solar energy system now, it would first pay off your utility bills plus it would also keep you secure from unpredictable and additional expense you incur in the next twenty plus years.

With solar, it makes perfect sense to be less dependent or completely independent of your utility service provider. It also provides relief to your utility companies by removing blockages and bottleneck in their distribution network. So you’re helping Pakistan as well.

Note that an average lifecycle of a solar energy system is over twenty years. Even if you aren’t hundred percent (100%) on solar, you can still save money by lowering the units you consume through your local utility. 

Reducing high monthly expenses sounds logical and makes perfect sense. What if, the utility service in your area is down? 

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Why Go For Solar: 8 Important Benefits of Solar Energy

Why Go Solar: 8 Important Benefits of Solar Energy

There are several reasons why property (residential building, commercial building, and industrial building) owners in Pakistan are choosing solar. The most common factors include improving the environment and reducing utility (electricity & gas) bills. Many building owners are conscious of the fact that by upgrading to solar, their buildings or homes will be more efficient and environment-friendly while also improving their property (real estate) value.

To understand why any Pakistani need to go for solar power, we have prepared a detailed list of benefits that will motivate everyone (include you). Here are the top eight reasons and benefits of solar energy being the best option for your building.

1. Saves Money by Reducing or Eliminating Utility Bills

If you’re a homeowner or a commercial property owner, utility (electricity and gas) bills take up a huge chunk out of your monthly income/ savings. Let’s assume your monthly average electricity bill is Pakistani Rupees Fifteen Thousand (PKR 15,000/-). Adding that up to twelve (12) months becomes PKR One Lac and Eighty Thousand (PKR 180,000/-) and further adding that up (without considering inflation) to twenty (20) years amounts to PKR Thirty-Six Lac (PKR 3,600,000/-).

To summarize you are paying your utility companies PKR 180,000/- each year and in Twenty years you will be paying them PKR 3,600,000/-.  

Adding a customized solar energy system to your property can drastically reduce or even eliminate your utility bills. According to research, even if you aren’t completely dependent on solar energy, you can save as least PKR Five Thousand to Ten Thousand (PKR 5,000/- to PKR 10,000/-) monthly. Calculate that over a year and that corresponds to PKR Sixty Thousand to One Lac Twenty Thousand (PKR 60,000/- to PKR 120,000/-). 

Note that an average lifecycle of a solar energy system is Twenty to Twenty Five (20 – 25) years. Even if you aren’t 100 percent (100%) on solar, you can still save money by lowering the units you consume through your local utility. 

Reducing high monthly expenses sounds logical and makes perfect sense. What if, the utility service in your area is down?  Doesn’t it make sense to be independent financially and commercially?

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2. Relief from Unpredictable Utility Inflation and Load Shedding

A. Inflation

Let us ask you a hypothetical question; is the cost of a Toyota Corolla the same it was Twenty years ago? Common-sense says it’s not. Why is that? This is mainly due to inflation. Don’t worry you have no direct control over inflation; It’s the government that makes the policies and drives the economy.

Taking this example, just imagine what would your utility bill be, say Five (5) years from now? The current market trends indicate they would definitely be much higher. Over the last ten (10) years, residential electricity prices have risen up at an average of 3 percent (3%) annually. The utility companies are known for their fluctuating and unreliable prices. 

Keeping this in view, if you invest in a solar energy system now, it would first pay off your utility bills plus it would also keep you secure from unpredictable and additional expense you incur in the next twenty years.

With solar, it makes perfect sense to be less dependent or completely independent of your utility service provider. It also provides relief to your utility companies by removing blockages and bottleneck in their distribution network.

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B. Load Shedding

Pakistan faces supply-demand parity, lack of rural electrification due to a low transmission and distribution network and grid proximity. Seventy percent (70%) of Pakistan is rural and overall grid connectivity stands at forty-two percent (42%) to date.

There are several reasons for the high cost each Pakistani has to bear some including inadequate development infrastructure, shortage of investment, lack of essential resources and security, etc. In short, most Pakistanis including you are going through load shedding.

If you’re a homeowner with a fluctuating income stream, going solar also helps you better forecast and manage your expenses.

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3. Little or No Maintenance Costs

General maintenance of a solar energy system has never been easier. You don’t need to be an expert in rinsing the solar panels with water two (2) or three (3) times a year. It’s a piece of cake.

With more technical matters, you are always covered by a warranty. Warranty is also one of the most important factors when you choose a solar panel. Most solar power manufacturers guarantee their product life ranging between 20 to 25 years.

The only thing you need to be careful about is the warranty clauses of the manufacturer. That helps you determine what’s covered and what isn’t. Choosing a well-known and reputed company will be important for you as they will honor your warranty.

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4. Increases Your Property Value

According to research carried out by the U.S Department of Energy, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems on their houses can sell their property at a higher price compared to those without one.

Given one example, suppose you own a house in F-7, Islamabad with an installed solar energy system (plug and play) and want to give it on rent. Your prospective renters would pay you more because it ensures their convenience by not paying high utility bills.

Seeing the current market trends, buyers are keenly taking more interest in properties with solar installations and as homebuyers become more educated about solar, demand for properties equipped with solar energy systems will continue to rise.

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5. Gives Excellent Return on Investment (ROI)

Modern advancements in the solar energy sector have drastically reduced equipment (solar panels, inverters, batteries, etc.) costs. Think of your home solar energy system as an investment which unlike stocks and prize bonds guarantees returns on a monthly basis. 

Depending on your location, an average homeowner can off their investment in their solar energy system in about six to eight years.

There are a few factors that will impact your ROI. Depending on these factors, you can calculate your return on investment by dividing your yearly financial benefits by your initial expense on your solar energy system. 

6. Take Benefit of Government and Private Incentives

The government of Pakistan had created the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) for the sole purpose of facilitating the public.

As of 2015, the government of Pakistan guarantees, subject to certain conditions, a 16 percent $-indexed return. With cost benefits also given to the import of solar energy equipment.

There is also a provision of Net Metering, which works on the principle of selling your solar electricity generation back to the utility company. Any power you generate and don’t use flows back into the gird, and you receive a credit from your utility company for that power.

If you’re on a vacation for a week, your solar energy system will be supplying all your electricity to the grid. That way when you come back you’ll be at ease that you’ve saved money. 

7. Promotes Pakistan’s Economy

A. Making Pakistan Energy Independent

Our planet captures more than billions of photons (tiny packets of energy) from the sun (natural nuclear reactor) every day. One recent study found that Sixty Four Thousand (64,000 km²) square kilometers or Twenty Five Thousand (25,000 mi²) square miles of solar panels (an area roughly half the size of Thar Desert in Sindh), would generate sufficient electricity to power the whole planet. 

In this century, our economies are more tightly connected than they ever were before. We depend on others to fulfill our economic requirements. Although to be globally connected is a good thing, the downside here is the fluctuating and unstable market prices.

About a hundred (100) days ago, oil prices were different than they are right now. We all buy oil from countries to satisfy our thermal energy needs. Why is that? Wouldn’t it be better to be energy independent?

When we expand our capacity to generate electricity through solar, we also protect ourselves from those price fluctuations and ensure a sustainable source of energy for the future.

Even Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, recognizes the economic and political benefits of energy independence and has announced goals to build solar energy power plants, thereby increasing their capacity to 41 gigawatts (GW) by 2032.

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B. Creates Employment and Boosts Local Economy

The solar energy industry is a national industry that provides high-quality employment opportunities across the country. Based on the ‘Demand-Supply’ principle, If more people (buyers) go for solar, more people (sellers) will be providing this service. This way more people will work to sustain them.

There is good news for the economy and the environment as the solar energy sector is rising and is becoming one of the key sources of energy in Pakistan.

8. Protects the Environment

In recent news, U.N’s Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres says climate change poses a “global risk” and that ‘We’re losing the race’.

Pakistan’s contribution to global emissions is less than 1% while it is among the most vulnerable countries facing the threat of climate change. According to the German Watch Global Climate Risk Index (2018), Pakistan is at the seventh position with a death toll of 523.1 lives per year – ie loss of 10,462 lives in 20 years – and economic losses worth $3.8 billion.

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8 Important Reasons to Go Solar

Wouldn’t it be great to know why solar is one of the best options you have out there in the market? This article will explain in detail the 8 important benefits of solar energy.

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Solar Energy Explained

This article will give you a basic understanding of solar energy, its history and applications. 

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the energy emitted from the sun (a natural nuclear reactor). Our planet captures more than billions of photons (tiny packets of energy) from the sun every day. These photons determine the climate and support life on earth. 

Two interesting facts about Solar energy,

1. “Our sun emits more energy in one second than the combined consumption of every person who either has lived or is living on earth!”

2. “Did you know that less than two hours of sunlight striking our planet can fulfill our electricity needs for an entire year.”

History of Solar Energy

From the very beginning, people have been harnessing solar energy by using it to cook food, stay warm or find the way in the darkness. People used simple magnifying glasses to concentrate sunlight into beams so hot they would cause wood to catch fire. In France, over a century ago, a scientist used heat from a solar collector to make steam to drive a steam engine.

Almost 100 years ago, people scientists and engineers began researching ways to use solar energy in earnest. In 1936, Charles Greely Abbot, an American astrophysicist invented a solar boiler. 

In the mid-1950s, Bell Telephone discovered that an element found in the sand called silicon (Si) creates an electric charge when exposed to sunlight. This led to the discovery of solar cells that capture the sun’s energy and convert into electricity.

Among other renewable energies, solar energy has been adopted more quickly. In the U.S alone, there are several state and federal incentives and policies contributing to driving down the cost of solar panels far enough to become more widely consumed. According to the market insights for the year 2019 provided by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The installed solar photovoltaics capacity in the U.S  can power 13.1 million American homes and this number is expected to double over the next five years. 

Solar Energy Applications

Applications of solar energy can be classified into three main categories.

  • Residential (Homes, Farms, etc.)
  • Commercial (Buildings, Industries, etc.)
  • Utility (Power Plants etc.)

As you’re aware, solar energy is spread out over a large area and is not constant at any specific area or place at one time. How much solar energy an area receives depends on several conditions which include the time of day, the season of the year, the latitude of the area, and the clearness or cloudiness of the sky. 

A solar collector is like a parked car on a sunny day. As sunlight passes through the car’s glass windows, it is absorbed by the dashboard, seat covers, walls, and floor of the car. The light that is absorbed changes into heat. The car’s closed glass windows let the light in, but don’t let all the heat out. If the car windows are open the heat will more quickly dissipate, but that’s another matter.

From the example above, a solar collector is an object which does three things:

  • it allows sunlight inside the glass (or plastic);
  • it absorbs the sunlight and changes it into heat;
  • it traps most of the heat inside.

Note that all solar technologies used today work on the principle of sunlight collection.

We have classified the applications of solar energy into 2 categories.

  1. Solar Space Heating (Thermal Applications)
  2. Solar Electricity (Power Applications)

Solar Space Heating

Space heating means heating the space inside any structure with roof and walls. It could be a house, a shop or a factory, etc. 

There are three types of solar space heating systems. 

  1. Passive
  2. Active
  3. Hybrid (A combination of both passive and active)

Passive Solar Space Heating

In a passive solar building, the whole structure operates as a solar collector (heat absorber) and does not use mechanical or electrical devices. The main design requirements of a passive solar space heating structure are:

  • Latitude, sun path, and insolation (sunshine)
  • Seasonal variations 

Passive Solar System

 

To help you understand better, let us take an example of a passive solar house. It would not have any special mechanical equipment such as pipes, ducts, fans, or pumps to transfer the heat Instead, the house is designed in such as way that it relies on properly positioned windows. Since the sun shines from the south in North America, passive solar structures are built so that most of the windows face south. 

A passive solar house would convert solar energy into heat just as a parked car would. Sunlight passes through a building’s windows and is absorbed in the walls and floors.

To control the amount of heat in a passive solar house, the doors and windows are either closed to let the heated air in or opened to let the air out. 

Usually, at night, passive solar homeowners use heavy curtains or shades by pulling them over their windows to keep the day’s heat inside. 

While in summers, awnings or roof coverings are used to help keep the house cool by shading the windows from the blazing sun.

Most passive homes are located in a quiet and peaceful place. A home heated naturally by warming the walls or floors is more economically beneficial than using mechanical and electrical devices to heat the air inside a house. 

It’s always convenient to use solar energy equipment to make electricity for your house. That way you are both warm and lit up!!!!

After the installation of solar energy equipment, your passive home solar system would now be labeled as a hybrid solar system.  

Active Solar Space Heating

An active solar building operates on both mechanical equipment and the solar collection (heat absorption) principle. Active solar structures are commonly used at places where solar energy is not sufficient.  

For active systems, special solar collectors that look like boxes covered with glass are used. Dark-colored metal plates inside the boxes absorb the sunlight and change it into heat. You may ask have one observation, why use only dark colors? Well, dark colors especially black absorbs more sunlight than any other light color. 

Depending on the usage, air or a liquid flows through collectors and is warmed by this heat. The warm or heated air or liquid is then distributed to the rest of the house just as it would be with an ordinary furnace system.

Solar collectors are usually placed high on roofs where they can collect the most sunlight. They are also put on the south side of the roof where no tall trees or tall buildings will shade them.

To read more about active solar space heating, click here.

Storing Solar Heat

Why do you store anything? The answer would be to use it later. The same logic applies here. You need to use an efficient heat storage system to keep yourself warm during nights or on rainy days. Otherwise whats the point of investing money on the solar energy system.

Storing heat is a challenge confronting any solar heating system; whether passive, active, or hybrid. 

In passive solar homes, heat is stored by using dense interior materials (masonry, adobe, concrete, stone, or water) that retain heat well. These materials are good absorbers and retain surplus heat and radiate it back into the house when its dark and cool. Some passive homes may have walls up to one foot thick.

In an active solar home, heat can be stored in two ways

  • A large tank to store hot liquid, or
  • Rock bins beneath a house to store hot air.

Houses with active or passive solar heating systems may also have a backup system that can be a furnace, wood-burning stove, or another heat source to provide heat in case there is a long period of cold or cloudy weather. 

Solar Hot Water Heating

Conventional water heating is expensive and is the second leading home energy expense, costing an average family between $350-$800, a year. 

We can always use solar energy to heat our water. Based on your location, family size and water usage habits, a well-maintained and efficient solar water heater (geyser) lasts 15-20 years longer than a conventional water heater and can pay for itself in five or less. 

Note that most solar water heater manufacturers provide excellent warranties and financing plans. 

A solar water heater works on the same principle as solar space heating. A solar collector is mounted on the roof, or in an open area with direct sunlight. It collects sunlight and converts it to heat. When the collector becomes hot enough, a thermostat starts a pump. The pump circulates a fluid, called a heat transfer fluid, through the collector for heating. The heated fluid then goes to a storage tank where it heats water. The hot water may then be piped to a faucet or showerhead. Most solar water heaters that operate in winter use a heat transfer fluid, similar to antifreeze, that will not freeze when the weather turns cold.

Taking advantage of the latest advancements in solar technology, residential and commercial property owners based on their location can either install solar water heating systems (geysers) or design their buildings with solar heating.

Today over 1.5 million homes in the U.S. use solar heaters to heat water for their homes or swimming pools.

Solar Electricity

Solar energy can be utilized and produced in several ways, the most common of which is with photovoltaic panels (also known as solar or Photovoltaic or PV panels) that convert sunlight into electricity. 

There are two main solar electricity systems:

  • Photovoltaic Electricity
  • Solar Thermal Electricity

Photovoltaic Electricity

In the mid-1950s, Bell Telephone discovered that an element found in the sand called silicon (Si) creates an electric charge when exposed to sunlight. This led to the discovery of solar cells that capture the sun’s energy and convert into electricity.

Simply put, a solar cell is a semiconductor device made up of wafers of pure silicon (Si) doped with special impurities, which convert sunlight either visible light, ultraviolet (UV) radiation or infrared (IR) radiation into direct current (DC) by using photovoltaic action of the cell without the use of any moving parts.

Solar cells or PV cells operate according to the photovoltaic effect. Here, “Photo” means light and “Voltaic” means electricity. They are constructed with a positive and negative layer which together creates an electric field.

Solar Energy Power Plant

Solar panels directly convert sunlight (photons) to electricity (voltage). When sunlight (photons) hits a solar cell, electrons are knocked out of their respective atoms and if conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, it forms an electrical circuit. When these electrons flow through an electrical circuit they generate electricity.

Solar or PV solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity. With DC electricity, electrons are unidirectional and flow in one direction around a circuit. 

Solar Thermal Electricity

Solar thermal systems use the sun’s heat to make electricity. We’ve discussed a lot about solar thermal heating above, the principle is the same. Solar thermal electricity systems use solar collectors with mirrored surfaces to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver to super-heat a liquid. 

This super-heated liquid makes steam that drives a steam turbine to produce electricity like most conventional power plants.

Solar thermal systems are of three main types: 

Central Receiver System

A central receiver system uses large mirrors on top of a high tower to reflect sunlight onto a receiver. This system is also known as a Solar Power Tower.

Dish-Shaped System

This system uses a dish-shaped solar collector to collect the sun’s energy. This system resembles a TV satellite dish.

Trough System

This system is most promising and uses mirrored troughs to collect sun’s energy.

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