Have you ever experienced a situation where everyone seems to be in agreement on something, but you’re somewhat clueless on the subject and consequently, feel left out? It’s like a joke where everyone in the room is laughing except you as you didn’t know the backstory before hearing the punchline.
Solar panels can be like that for some. Until you’ve had that first experience, then it is not unreasonable to be somewhat lost on things.
Solar panels conserve energy in two ways;
- By providing it onsite, so that you don’t have to acquire it from the power company.
- By providing it without consuming any material fuel.
Solar Panels: Conservation At The Household Level
As solar panels are rated in watts and electric bills are in kilowatt hours, I will be using watts in the following example.
Let’s say that there are 7 LED bulbs in your house that are rated at 8 watts of consumption (when in operation). In this situation, you would need 56 watts of power as energy demand is calculated by multiplying the number of bulbs against their respective consumption.
In other words, 7 bulbs using 8 watts each will require a total of 56 watts of power in order to work.
A solar panel, installed at your home, would conserve energy by providing this 56 watts of electricity onsite rather than requiring the power company to provide it to you.
Solar Panels: Consuming Vs. Non-Consuming
While we have discussed how solar panels can save us from requiring off-site power, we need to understand how solar panels are fundamentally different than a traditional power plant.
With a traditional power plant, a material of some kind is consumed in such a way as to generate heat. This heat is generally used to produce steam, which turns a turbine. This turbine is connected to an electric generator which produces electricity (usually by means of electron flow related to magnetic fields).
Solar panels operate in a much different way.
With solar panels, there is no consumption of materials, but rather a very clever employment of materials.
By utilizing the innate qualities of specific materials, engineers are able to design a static potential for electron flow – this electron flow (electricity) being initiated by the bombardment of photons present in sunlight. (Think of it as a sort of sun powered battery)
In this way, the material in question is not being consumed, thereby saving in the acquisition of any replacement material (think fuel: natural gas, coal, nuclear, ect.)
** For an in-depth look at this please read: How Do Solar Panels Work?
So in a relatable fashion, we can see that solar panels conserve us energy by providing a homeowner with free electricity rather than having to purchase it from the power company.
However, in the grand scheme of things, solar panels conserve energy by not consuming material. And it is this consuming process that is the most problematic.
Not only does replacement material constantly need to acquired, processed and delivered, but once the transformation of material from solid or liquid into a gas (think burning coal to produce CO2) has occurred, you now have changed the dynamics of the environment.
In other words, what was once locked up underground – put there by a considerable amount of time – is now hovering in our skies, introducing a new set of dynamics.
And if this new dynamic is unfavorable, as most scientist believe it is, then the situation is ‘quite challenging’ for us who live here as there is very little that can be done to undo the introduction of this new variable.