Understanding How The Different Types of Solar Radiation Affect A Solar Power System
Modern solar power systems can harvest more of the sun's energy than ever before. They do a very efficient job of converting this solar radiation to electricity that can be used in your home. Understanding the difference between these types of solar radiation can help you get the most out of your solar power system.
The sun is a virtually unlimited source of energy and showers the earth each day with enough power for all of our energy needs if we were able to harvest it. The energy the sun provides to us covers a wide range of wavelengths and each of them is affected in a slightly different way as the sun's energy reaches our planet. Initially when the radiation of energy from the sun reaches our outer atmosphere, it is considered to be constant. The reason for this is that the distance between earth and the sun is a vacuum and has little impact on the solar radiation traveling through it. Once this sunlight enters our planets atmosphere however, things change pretty rapidly.
Solar Reflection and Diffuse Radiation
The first thing that happens to this solar radiation is that it is reflected by the various particles of dust, water vapor and other small debris in our atmosphere. This reflection sends some of the solar radiation that hits earth's atmosphere back out into space and it never reaches our planet's surface. Of the solar radiation that does get through, some of this is further reflected and scattered as it travels to the surface of the planet. The portion of this scattered radiation that eventually reaches the earth's surface is known as diffuse radiation. This is a somewhat weaker form of solar radiation, but can still be harvested for conversion to electricity and heat.
Direct Solar Radiation
There is a portion of the solar radiation that reached the surface of the earth without being scattered or reflected and this type is referred to as direct solar radiation. This tends to be the strongest form of solar radiation and can produce the most energy from conversion to electricity or heat.
Radiation Intensity Varies Throughout the Day
Home solar panels can use all of these forms of solar radiation and convert them to energy for your home. The output of this solar power for homes will vary during a typical day depending on what type of solar radiation it has to convert. The highest output from these home solar panels will occur when the sun is directly overhead as this is when the most direct solar radiation strikes the panels and is converted to electricity.
Solar Energy Is Weakest in the Morning and Evening
In the early morning and late afternoon hours the sun is at a more dramatic angle to the surface of the planet and has to traverse more of the atmosphere before striking these home solar panels. As a result there is less direct solar radiation occurring and more diffuse sunlight as a result of the scattering in the atmosphere. These times of the day are more of a challenge for these home solar panels since they are converting a weaker sunlight and their output is much lower as a result.
Solar Technology Efficiency Improvements Have Come a Long Way
The good news is that most modern solar panels are more efficient than ever and can do a better job of converting this weaker diffuse solar radiation to electricity than older panels could. In fact many of the older home solar panels could only convert a very small portion of the diffuse solar radiation that struck them to electricity, which meant they were inactive for large portions of an average day. Because these new panels can convert this diffuse solar radiation better, they produce a far higher output of power on average than ever before.
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