5 most frequently asked questions about solar energy

In recent years, solar energy has emerged as a viable and sustainable solution to the world’s energy needs. With growing concerns about environmental sustainability and the search for renewable energy sources, many people have questions about how solar energy works and what its benefits are. With that in mind, let’s answer the five most frequently asked questions about solar energy.

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1. Does solar energy work when the electricity runs out?

(Image: Freepik)

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about how solar energy works and the answer is: yes, solar energy continues to work even when there is an interruption in the traditional electrical grid. This is because solar energy systems are usually equipped with batteries that can store the excess energy produced during the day for use at night or in the event of a power outage.

When electricity from the grid is available, solar systems typically use the electricity produced by solar panels in real time. However, when a power outage occurs, the system can automatically switch to the energy stored in the batteries, ensuring continuous power supply to consumers.

This ability to operate independently of the grid makes solar energy an attractive option for homes, businesses and communities seeking energy security and resiliency in the face of power outages.

2. How much energy does a solar panel produce per day?

solar panelBrasilia – Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) inaugurates the first solar power plant installed on the roof of a federal government building (MME headquarters) (José Cruz/Agência Brasil)

This is another common question when it comes to solar energy. The amount of energy generated per day by a solar panel or photovoltaic panel depends on several factors, including geographical location, the slope and orientation of the solar panel, weather conditions and the efficiency of the system. It is important to distinguish between a solar panel and a photovoltaic panel:

Solar panel: This term is often used generically to refer to the individual components that make up a solar system, including solar cells and semiconductor materials that convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic panel: Refers to the series of interconnected solar panels that form a single solar energy generating unit. A photovoltaic panel can consist of several solar panels.

On average, a high-quality solar panel can generate between 250 and 400 watts of electricity per hour of direct sunlight. On a typical sunny day, a solar panel can produce approximately 2 to 4 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity per day. However, this estimate can vary significantly depending on the factors previously mentioned.

3. Is it possible to generate solar energy at night?

This may seem like a question with an obvious answer about solar energy, but there are still interesting facts about this topic. Although solar energy is an abundant and renewable source during the day, it is not possible to generate energy directly from sunlight at night. This is because solar panels rely on sunlight to produce electricity.

However, as mentioned earlier, many solar energy systems are equipped with batteries that can store the excess energy produced during the day for later use, including at night. During the day, solar panels charge batteries, which can then power electrical appliances when sunlight is not available.

Additionally, in some regions, solar power systems can be supplemented with other renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines or hydropower systems, to provide energy during periods of low solar energy.

4. What are the costs of solar energy?

Image: Douglas Cliff/Shutterstock

The cost of a solar energy system varies depending on several factors, including the size of the system, quality of equipment, complexity of installation, available tax incentives and market conditions.

In recent years, the cost of solar panels and photovoltaic systems has fallen significantly due to technological advances and the scale of production. Furthermore, government policies to encourage renewable energy, such as subsidies, tax breaks and energy purchase rates (net metering), have helped make solar energy more accessible to consumers.

Currently, the average cost of installing a residential solar energy system ranges between R$10,000 and R$30,000 per kilowatt (kW) of installed power. However, it is important to emphasize that this value can be recouped over time through savings on electricity bills and the environmental benefits that solar energy provides.

5. What are the environmental effects of solar energy?

Image shows the sun shining under photovoltaic energy cellsImage: Andre Nery/Shutterstock

Although solar energy is widely regarded as a clean and sustainable energy source, its implementation and operation can still have a number of environmental impacts, and this ultimately raises some questions. However, these impacts are generally considered minor compared to those associated with non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels.

Some of the environmental impacts of solar energy include:

Land use: Installing large solar panels may require the use of large areas of land, especially on utility-scale projects. This can impact local habitats and biodiversity, although in many cases the land under the panels can be used for other purposes, such as agriculture. Water consumption: Some solar energy systems, especially those using concentrated solar technology, may require water for cooling. Water consumption can be an issue in regions where water is scarce or where there is already competition for water resources. Waste generation: Although solar panels are generally durable and have a long lifespan, they will eventually need to be replaced. Improper disposal of used solar panels can lead to the generation of waste and soil and water pollution. However, many manufacturers are developing recycling programs to minimize these impacts.

Despite these potential impacts, solar energy remains one of the cleanest and most environmentally friendly options for generating electricity, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change.

In summary, as we saw in the answers to these questions, solar energy provides a renewable and sustainable energy source that can provide clean, reliable electricity for a variety of applications. By better understanding how solar energy works and its benefits, we can harness its enormous potential to help drive a global transition to a greener, more sustainable energy future.