What is solar energy?

Solar energy is, simply, energy provided by the sun. This energy is in the form of solar radiation, which makes the production of solar electricity possible.

Electricity can be produced directly from photovoltaic, PV, cells. (Photovoltaic literally means “light” and “electric.”) These cells are made from materials which exhibit the “photovoltaic effect” i.e. when sunshine hits the PV cell, the photons of light excite the electrons in the cell and cause them to flow, generating electricity.

Solar energy produces electricity when it is in demand – during the day particularly hot days when air-conditioners drive up electricity demand.

In use, solar energy produces no emissions. One megawatt hour of solar electricity offsets about 0.75 to 1 tonne of CO2.

PV panels are being used increasingly, both in the city and in remote locations, to produce electricity for households, schools and communities, and to supply power for equipment such as telecommunication and water pumps. The majority of solar PV installations in Australia are grid-connected systems.

Also, electricity for remote and regional Australian communities has been supplied by solar energy for many years.

Australia is one of the sunniest countries in the world and there is huge potential for solar PV to make a significant contribution to electricity generation.