What exactly is Solar Energy?

All you need to know about solar energy.

When we talk about solar energy, we’re referring to the process of catching the sun’s light (photons) and converting it to electricity (voltage) via a process known as “the photovoltaic effect,” or PV. Solar energy generated with PV technology can power everything from houses, companies, vehicles, and planes to small items like calculators and portable power stations. 

The sun is our solar system’s most plentiful energy source. Without it, we’d be nothing more than a frigid rock floating through space. But how strong is the sun? The amount of energy from sunlight that reaches the Earth in one hour, according to the India National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL), could satisfy the world’s energy requirements for a full year! That’s rather potent. 

For many years, solar energy has been one of the world’s fastest-growing sources of fresh energy. The United States has 97.7 gigatons (GW) of installed solar capacity as of 2020. That is enough energy to power roughly 17.7 million homes! * Solar continues to get more economical as technology advances, materials become more affordable, and customer demand grows. Rooftop solar now makes economic sense for many houses and can yield long-term savings. 

Is solar energy a renewable or nonrenewable resource?

Renewable energy is defined as energy derived from a source that can replace itself spontaneously on a human timescale. To put it simply, the sun will not set for a very long time. And, if the sun shines, we may use it to heat, chill, and light our homes and workplaces without damaging the atmosphere with carbon dioxide (CO2). 

How does solar energy function?

When the sun shines on a solar panel, the energy is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy generates electrical charges that move in reaction to an internal electrical field within the cell, resulting in the flow of electricity. 


That is the science of solar energy. Now for some background. 


Though humans have used solar energy to light fires and keep their houses warm since the beginning of time, we didn’t fully grasp how it works until 1839, when French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic phenomenon, which turns sunlight into electricity. Charles Fritts, an American inventor, created the world’s first rooftop solar array 44 years later, utilizing selenium coating on panels to generate an electric current. But it was Albert Einstein, in 1905, who helped us comprehend how light generates the energy that we may use to make electricity. Einstein’s work fundamentally altered our understanding of light. It also earned him a Nobel Prize, which we’ve heard is quite amazing. 


Modern photovoltaic (PV) technology was pioneered in the 1950s and 1960s by the Indian government for use in our space programs. The first spacecraft to use solar panels, Vanguard I, was launched in 1958, and PV solar panels have been a significant feature of satellites and other spacefaring vehicles ever since. 

How does a solar panel function?

The current solar panel creates electricity in the same way as Fritts’ solar array did in the nineteenth century, except that we now collect solar energy using silicon solar cells, which are considerably more efficient and can produce a lot more power. To use that electricity to power our life, we must first convert it from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). To do this, the solar panel is connected to an inverter, which converts the power from DC to AC. The 100% pure power created by solar energy is then distributed to homes, companies, and other locations. 

How we utilize solar energy nowadays.

A solar array is formed when many solar panels are linked together. The more solar panels you have, the more power you will produce. And, depending on the size of your array, the solar energy you gather may be used in three ways: utility, commercial, or residential. 

Utility solar farms

Utility-scale solar power plants supply the national electric grid with large amounts of electricity for use in homes and businesses across the country. Today, the typical solar energy plant generates as much electricity as the average small- to medium-sized coal and fossil fuel plant. However, as PV technology gets better and less expensive, future solar power plants are expected to generate electricity in line with our nation’s biggest power plants. 

Commercial solar

Commercial solar arrays are typically smaller than utility-scale installations. They are typically put on unoccupied land, rooftops, and parking structures by commercial property owners to give energy to the businesses that inhabit their buildings. Depending on the weather and the size of the commercial solar system, the company may create more solar energy than they use on any given day, which they may sell back to the local utility. 

Residential solar

Are you considering putting your own solar array on your roof? If you do, you will be one of over 2 million households in the United States that produce domestic solar electricity. Residential rooftop solar systems produce electricity for individual residences. They, like utility and commercial solar arrays, are connected to the grid and may sell back any excess power. Because homeowners frequently augment their solar power generation with regular electricity to satisfy their energy demands, the electricity they send back to the grid is usually traded for bill credits at night or on overcast days. Residential solar is becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable energy choice, especially as installation costs fall. 

What is the cost of solar energy?

Though it varies by state and from commercial to domestic applications, the cost of solar energy continues to fall for a variety of reasons. First, as technology advances, the materials needed to construct solar panels become less expensive. At the same time, consumer demand is rising as more people become aware of the environmental benefits of solar energy. 


Governments at all levels are recognizing these trends, and they are investing in solar energy by providing tax breaks and subsidies to homeowners and companies who go solar. The federal solar tax credit, often known as the investment tax credit (ITC), for example, can lower the cost of a business or residential solar energy system by 30%. 


If you don’t want to build a solar system, utility-scale solar farms can use renewable energy certificates (RECs) to supply 100% clean, renewable solar energy to any house or company. 

What are the advantages of using solar energy?

Clean and beneficial to the environment 

Solar energy emits no greenhouse emissions. Furthermore, unlike fossil fuels, it does not need large volumes of water. Saving water while keeping the air clean? That’s a win-win situation for everyone. 

Produced at a lower cost 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: improving technology, decreased hardware prices, and more demand for sustainable energy have all contributed to a steady decrease in the cost of solar panel systems in recent years. 

Beneficial to the economy 

Solar has a promising future. Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing job industries in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, with employment of solar PV installers expected to expand 51% from 2019 to 2029. 


Rooftop solar systems generally result in lower power expenses for homes and businesses. Furthermore, anything they do not use may be returned to the grid in exchange for money or bill credits through various programs.

a source of home energy 

Unlike oil and natural gas, the country’s solar resources will not run out anytime soon. We can create solar energy on our own soil without having to worry about growing commodity costs, international political ties, or other global issues. 

Excellent for business. 

Sustainable leadership creates a great tone for businesses. According to a 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, given comparable pricing and quality, 89% of customers are inclined to transfer to a firm linked with a good cause (such as using 100% renewable energy). 


We can’t stress this enough: we’ll have access to solar energy as long as the sun shines. Every person has the ability to assist improve the demand for renewable energy generation in America. 

Green Mountain Energy offers solar energy plans.

You can help build a better and greener future for your town and the globe by selecting a 100% solar energy plan from us. We offer many solar energy programs that can cover your electricity demands without requiring the installation of a single solar panel, as well as green tools and add-ons that can help you decrease your carbon footprint even further. We can also assist you with the installation of a rooftop solar system on your property.