Understanding the various components of a solar system will give you a glimpse of what makes up solar energy. It will also give you knowledge about the various types of solar components available. So you can pick the one that best meets your energy requirements and budget in a time of need. You will also discover a variety of options available if you need to upgrade your solar system.
What you will learn in this article:
1. Solar Panels
Solar panels are energy devices with an arrangement of photovoltaic (PV) cells that generate direct current (DC) electricity from light – mainly sunlight. They allow photons to hit atom-free electrons to produce electricity. Solar panels are also called PV panels.
Types And Benefits Of Solar Panels
Amorphous, polycrystalline, and monocrystalline are the main types of solar panels used in Solar Systems in South Africa. They have distinct benefits.
Amorphous Solar Panels
Amorphous solar panels are also called thin-film solar panels. They are made up of non-crystalline silicon deposits on metal, plastic, or glass substrates.
Benefits Of Amorphous Solar Panels
- They are safer because the materials used in their formation are less toxic.
- The level of silicon used in making amorphous solar panels is less compared to that used to make poly- and mono-crystalline panels.
- They are more flexible than panels made from solid silicon wafers making them bendable with minimal crack risks.
- The panels are aesthetically pleasing.
- Amorphous is a composition of light materials making it lighter and portable.
- They can keep charging even with part of their cells in a shadow.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are conspicuous because of their black cells. The panels are made up of large silicon crystals from a pure silicon crystal. They come with significant costs.
Benefits Of Monocrystalline Solar Panels
- The panels are the most efficient of all solar panels available.
- They perform better than other panels, even in lower light environments.
- The panels have good aesthetics.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline panels cells are a product of melted and bundled silicon crystal fragments cut to form wafers. The wafers are arranged into rows and columns with a glass sheet covering supported with a frame.
Benefits Of Polycrystalline Solar Panels
- The panels cost less to produce.
- They are readily available in the South African market.
2. Solar Charge Controllers Solar System Components
Solar charge controllers are a pivotal part of any solar system. They protect your backup battery from completely draining by disconnecting when the battery is low and overcharging when the current is high thereby increasing its service life. A good battery life saves you from frequent expenditures on batteries and sustains your house with adequate power supply. Although there are many types of charge controllers in the South African market, the most common include the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT).
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
PWM charge controller maintains a constant voltage allowing the battery to charge seamlessly to capacity. Once the battery is full, the PWM drops the voltage to a level that only maintains the battery at full capacity without further charging. PWM is a common charge controller in green energy.
Benefits of Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
- The controllers retail at affordable prices.
- You can get them in different sizes.
- PWM is a well-established technology and has been in use for a long time in solar systems.
- They can serve you for a long time.
Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
MPPT controllers have a complex design allowing them to keep track of a solar panel Voltage at Maximum Power (VMP) and then adjust it to suit battery voltage.
Benefits Of MPPT
- MPPT is your best battery charging option when you have a connection to the grid.
- You generally get a longer warranty than PWM.
- They have a high-level efficiency when charging solar battery backups. They minimize power loss.
- MPPTs have more Amps and this is better for battery life and performance.
- These controllers are suitable for system upgrades as they allow room for expansion.
3. Solar Batteries As Solar System Components
Solar batteries come along as a requisite component of any solar energy system in both commercial and home use. They supply power in moments when solar panels cannot generate enough power because of inadequate sun. The best solar batteries are deep-cycle. Deep-cycle solar batteries regularly discharge to a defined capacity usually after most of its energy is used up. The concept is known as the depth of charge. The main solar battery types that can give you the maximum benefits of solar energy include the lithium-ion and lead-acid battery.
Lead Acid Solar Battery
Lead-acid batteries are a common component of the solar power system. They come in two types; the flooded and the sealed lead-acid battery.
Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
Flooded lead-acid batteries have wet cells immersed in a solution of sulphuric acid. You maintain them monthly by adding distilled water to level up and ventilating them by opening the lids to get rid of gas build-up.
Benefits Of Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
- The batteries are the most affordable and good for beginners in solar power use.
- They have a reasonable lifespan of between 5 and 7 years. However, this is dependent on the brand.
Sealed Lead Acid Batteries
Sealed lead-acid batteries are an improvement of the flooded lead-acid batteries. Their discharge is low when not in use and can contain high temperatures. The resistance of the cells is lower than conventional cells. Since they don’t leak, you can place them in any position.
Benefits Of Sealed Lead Acid Batteries
- No risks from potential leakages because they are sealed; you can place them in any position.
- They don’t need any maintenance.
- The can charge to capacity with lower voltage.
Lithium-ion Solar Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries contain metallic lithium. They have a high charge density, use deep cycles, and are long lasting.
Benefits Of Lithium-ion Solar Batteries
- They have a long lifespan and can serve between one and two decades.
- Their charging and discharging are highly efficient hitting more than 95%.
- They are available in smaller sizes and are lighter.
- You can mount them in any direction because they contain solid matter.
- They don’t need any kind of maintenance.
- The can release 100% of the power they store.
4. Solar Inverters
Solar inverters convert DC (direct current) power produced by solar panels into AC (alternating current) power for use by the end destination utilities. Energy conversions from solar panels move unidirectional. Appliances need the current to flow in both directions hence the need for AC power. There are three main types of inverters you can get from Solar Systems in South Africa – off-grid/hybrid, grid-tied, and micro-grid inverters.
(a) Off-Grid Inverters
Off-grid is when your system is independent of the national power line connection. Solar systems running off the grid need batteries, bidirectional inverters, batteries, and fuel generators when supporting applications that need high loads of energy. Check out off-grid inverters’ options below.
- Modified Sine Wave: Modified sine wave is the cheapest for a tight budget. If you can stretch your budget a bit you can go for the Sine Wave inverter.
- Pure Sine Wave Inverters: Pure sine wave is the most common off-grid inverter. It is safe with high output quality. The inverter is affordable and easy to integrate with most solar systems.
(b) Grid-Tied & Hybrid Types
Grid-tied inverters are used with systems that alternate power supply with the utility grid. When the solar power is low, the utility grid takes over the supply and when the solar power is enough, the grid switches off. Solar panels pass current to the inverter and the inverter connects with the electrical box of your national grid. Here are some types of grid-tied and hybrid inverters.
- Micro-inverters: You can expand them with the growth of your system because they are modular. They maximize the output of the power from each solar panel. Micro-inverters are also easy to install. The warrantee for micro-inverters can last long up-to 25 years in some cases.
- Solar Optimizers: Solar optimizers working mechanism resembles that of micro-inverters. They are affordable and can work with string inverters.
- String Inverters: This is the cheapest option you can pick – it is cost-effective. It will provide you with backup power and multiple MPPT inputs. It is also long-lasting with a life service of about 15 years.
(c) Hybrid Solar Inverters
Hybrid solar inverters allow you to go off-grid and you can get back to the grid. It is the best choice because it allows flexibility. You can purchase it in different sizes. It is equally affordable.
With the knowledge of the components of a solar system, you are now have a base level understanding for picking the best choice for your needs. If anything breaks down in your installation or if you need to understand the parts of a solar system, you can always come back to this article for reference.
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