Every hour, enough solar energy reaches the earth’s surface to power global energy needs for an entire year.
When you think about it, that’s a phenomenal amount of energy.
It’s therefore unsurprising that solar power is the fastest-growing source of energy worldwide.
Even though solar power only accounts for just over 2% of the global energy supply, that number is set to rise.
But how do solar farms actually work, and what does the future of solar energy look like?
What is solar energy?
Solar energy is generated by the sun via electric or thermal energy and can be harvested in several different ways. The most common and well-known is via what is known as a photovoltaic solar panel system.
A photovoltaic solar panel system can convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity for your home, business, or electric vehicle.
Solar energy is also used to heat spaces and liquids – like hot water systems which can be installed on a house roof to take advantage of the sun’s heat to generate hot water on demand.
How is solar power generated?
Solar energy is harnessed by solar panels. Within each solar panel is a layer of silicon cells that absorb and convert the sun’s energy into electricity. These cells are mounted on a metal frame and enclosed by glass. Wiring connects up these silicon cells to a solar converter.
The direct current is then converted into electricity ready for:
- Immediate use
- Storage within a battery facility
- Fed into the power grid
How is solar energy collected and distributed?
Solar energy can be generated and collected in several different ways. This depends on the end-use, and scale of the project. Here are some of the ways solar is being collected and distributed:
Private and household solar projects
Private households and businesses often will invest in solar systems to satisfy their own energy needs, and sometimes even get some return on investment. If your system produces surplus power, you could benefit from feed-in tariffs where energy retailers pay for energy that’s fed back into the grid. Often private and household solar projects are small-scale systems with a capacity for 15 to 40 Wh per day.
Community solar farms
Community solar farms (also known as solar gardens) are where households own a share – or part of a solar farm nearby and supplement electricity bills for lower cost contributions to this project. These arrangements are often shared and benefit entire communities. Some communities may even opt to build their own solar garden that is used and managed exclusively by the community. This is an attractive option for households that either don’t have the space for solar panels on roofs or simply don’t want solar panels on their property.
Utility solar farms
Utility solar farms are large solar farms that supply communities with power through the grid. Often this solar energy supplements power from other sources. Sometimes, energy is sold to wholesale buyers as part of a private agreement. Ultimately the owner of the power supply sells power to a utility provider who then distributes it to commercial, industrial, and residential customers via the power grid.
What are solar farms?
Solar farms are large-scale solar projects that feature multiple solar panels spanning multiple acres. Solar farms are owned by larger energy corporations and often supply power to multiple different energy stakeholders. Large-scale solar farms – like Sun Cable’s multi-million dollar power project which is set to be completed by 2027 in the heart of the Northern Territory demonstrate the scale and opportunity behind large-scale solar projects.
The future of solar farms is bright
For solar energy contractors, equipment suppliers, and related stakeholders, the future of solar farms presents a world of opportunity.
Apart from the glaring challenge of climate change, many other factors are pushing the solar energy market forward:
- Increasing global power demand
- The growth of consumer demand for electric vehicles
- Scientific innovations in the fields of solar cell design and storage batteries
Ultimately, there is still huge untapped potential within the industry as a whole. And for investors in Australia, solar power has one unique advantage: per square metre, Australia has the highest concentration of solar energy compared to any other continent.
Plugging in to solar: ways forward
Solar power is more than an alternative power source. It’s an industry that is exploding with investment opportunities for virtually anyone who wants to get involved.
Contractors looking to enter the market from a construction and development side have a wealth of local and even international projects to sink their teeth into. Here in WA, with excellent sunlight all year round, the possibilities are endless.
Get in touch with your renewable energy equipment supplier today and find out how you can stand to benefit from the solar industry.