Now playing: Solar panels can do the same things that you can with the sun But not always—they also have a limited lifespan.
That means they need to be replaced if they start to burn out, which is why we use our solar grill as an energy saver, explains Michael Houghton, a solar energy consultant at the Energy Department.
Solar panels generate electricity by converting sunlight into electricity.
That energy is stored in the panels, which store it in a special storage tank, and they also emit a thin, transparent gas that keeps the gas from touching the solar panel.
“That gas is the coolant,” Houghtons explains.
“When it’s heated up, the gas helps cool the solar panels.”
The gas cools the solar cells, keeping them from burning out, and this helps reduce their lifespan, which means that the panels are always working to keep them working.
When the gas coolant runs out, the panels stop working, and the panels need to start from scratch.
“If you have a solar panel that’s only going to last you a couple of years, then it’s not going to be a great idea to replace it,” Haug says.
“The energy storage is not there.
The energy storage has to be there, and that’s not always possible.”
When it’s time to replace the panels—especially when they’re not working at all—the cost of replacing a solar system can be significant.
So, solar energy experts have taken to installing solar panels at home and using them as energy storage.
But that doesn’t always work out.
A study of 10,000 solar panels found that replacing a system costing between $5,000 and $8,000 can have an energy savings of about 30 percent.
“I’m not trying to bash the solar industry,” Haugh says.
But he’s also concerned about the cost of solar panels.
“It’s an industry where you can save money, but if you can’t save money on a solar project, you might as well go solar,” he says.
Houghons team is using a new system to test whether the new solar grill will work with its own gas.
They’ve been testing the solar grill on a few homes, and found that it works fine.
But Haug’s team wants to put the solar solar grill in a larger home so they can measure the energy storage capacity and make sure it will last for at least 20 years.
Haug also thinks that there could be a way to convert energy from solar panels into other types of energy that people would want to use instead of solar energy.
“We could convert some of the energy we capture from solar power to a kind of renewable fuel, like wind power,” he explains.
So far, the researchers have tested that idea with a gas turbine, which uses electricity to generate steam and then turns that steam into electricity to power a generator.
But it’s still too early to know how the gas turbine would work, says Haug.
“You have to start to think about how much of the solar power could be used for electricity generation, how much could be converted to a renewable fuel.”
If the gas generator works, Haug thinks that’s great.
But there are still a lot of questions about solar energy, like how to store the solar energy that goes into the solar system, and what to do with the leftover energy.
For the most part, Haugh’s team has focused on the energy that is used to make the panels work.
That might mean using a battery for power generation, or it could be storing some of that energy in solar panels to make future solar panels last longer.
But to Haug, it’s all a matter of perspective.
“How much energy do you need to store?” he asks.
“And what’s the cost for storing the energy?
What kind of power is needed?”
That’s something Houghs team is still figuring out.
And there are other solar energy technologies that are still in the testing phase.
One is a small, inexpensive solar cell that has a very small electrical field.
The researchers are working on making solar cells with this smaller, more efficient electric field, which could be important for powering solar panels in homes that don’t have access to electricity.
“Right now, we’re trying to get the solar field to be smaller than what you’d need to run a small generator, which would mean that we’d be limited to power generation from the home,” Houg says.
Another option is to use photovoltaic cells.
These cells use light to capture solar energy and convert it into electricity, and researchers are already experimenting with the technology.
But the price tag for photovolaic cells is $25,000 to $30,000.
“These are not inexpensive materials, and you don’t get the same amount of efficiency as solar panels,” Haun says.
The biggest problem is that photovolsons are slow to produce power. But