Solar Basics

Solar Panels

This section presents an overview of solar energy basics in laymen's language without any technical detail. Please click on the title of this paragraph or the "Solar Basics" link at the top of this page. Topics covered are facts about the sun, the basics of how solar cells work, solar panels on and off the grid, solar utility systems, and the distribution of solar radiation across the US.

Solar In-depth

Solar Spectrum

The in depth discussion about solar power includes the sun's radiation and energy distributions, how solar cells work, silicon solar cells, thin film solar cells, sun tracker panels, central versus micro inverters, some current academic research and space based solar power (SBSP). We have tried to make this material very understandable for a person with no technical background.

Solar Costs

Naam Learning Curve

The prices for solar electricity have been coming down significantly for over 30 years. Since costs after installation are minimal for solar electricity, the relevant costs are for the purchase and installation of the system (capital costs). This decline is being driven by a) increasing efficiency of solar cells b) dramatic manufacturing technology improvements, c) economies of scale and d) intense competition.

Solar Markets

Solar Forecast Index

The market for solar electricity world wide is growing very rapidly. Estimates of the growth rate and reasons for it are explained. There is also a discussion of markets by country and by technology. Also included are the top ten solar manufacturers. The US lags other nations in installations but is coming on strong. Recent solar overcapacity issues are discussed as well as the Wuxi Suntech bankruptcy.

The Smart Grid

Grid Station

The basics of how the grid works are covered. A definition is provided as to what is a "smart grid". Some probable transmission and distribution improvements are illustrated as well as grid storage improvements. The northern grid is very vulnereable to damage from solar storms. A section on storm forecasting and guidlines for grid operators is included.