In scientific terms ‘Solar Lights’ are portable light fixtures powered by the sun’s energy. These portable lights are designed with solar energy LED lights or lamps, rechargeable batteries and photo-voltaic solar panels.
To put it simply, solar means the sun and lighting refers to providing light. So, solar light refers to the light produced with the help of the sun's energy. And this sun’s energy is used to provide light for dark-lit areas, reducing the need to use artificially-produced electricity.
There are a range of benefits that follow the use of solar lights. This post is your ready-reckoner guide to help you understand how solar lights work. We will cover the concept of its application, procedure, and uses.
The life-saving alternative to fossil fuels
Solar lighting can be very useful for companies and societies that wish to use affordable lighting systems. They’re also a means to save on depleting the natural reserves used as ingredients that go into making fuel to supply artificial power to cities at large. These include charcoal, petroleum and natural gas that are sourced from fossil fuels.
In the United States, nearly 60% of total electricity generated in 2020 was produced from biomass, fossil fuels, and municipal and industrial wastes. When these fuels are burned, a number of gasses are produced that are harmful to the environment.
All power plants have a physical footprint, which refers to where the power plant is located. These power plants are most often situated inside, on, or nearby existing buildings, so the footprint is fairly small. That said, most large power plants require land clearing to build the power plant. It requires the additional construction of roads, pipelines, railroads for fuel delivery, electricity transmission lines, and cooling water supplies.
Many power plants are designed into large structures to cover their power supply solutions, but often at the cost of altering the visual landscape.
The harmful gasses and substances that are produced after fossil fuels are burned to produce electricity.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) – harmful gas for the environment
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – contributes to the greenhouse effect
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – attributed to ground level ozone, irritating and damaging the lungs
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2) – causes acid rain, is harmful to aquatic plants and animals. Worsens heart disease and respiratory illnesses in the children and the elderly.
- Particulate matter (PM) – causes low visibility in cities and scenic areas combined with the effect of ozone. This contributes to developing chronic conditions like asthma, chronic bronchitis in the children and senior citizens.
- Heavy metals such as mercury – hazardous to human and animal health.
A relevant guide to the working of solar lights
Knowing about the detrimental effects of using biomass and fossil fuels among other resources can help create awareness. Let’s look at home solar lighting that can put a stop to the use of the non-replenishable elements of mother earth.
How does solar light work?
Solar lights work on the concept of the photovoltaic effect. The panels installed are used to make it work by absorbing sunlight with the help of solar cells. The solar energy absorbed is converted into direct electrical current and this current is stored into solar batteries via a charge controller. This current is then used later whenever the need arises like in the night or when sunlight is at its minimum, etc.
A single solar cell can produce a maximum of 0.45 volts. The current produced is defined by the size of the cell and the extent of the sunlight that hits the solar panel.
What is the procedure by which solar lighting works?
A solar panel is designed with multiple solar cells. In the process, a solar array is wired to join multiple panels together.
The solar cells are made from crystalline silicon, which is a semiconductor material used to produce negatively-charged electrons and positively-charged spaces. When sunlight passes through these solar cells, the photons released from the sun strike these electrons and put them into the positive spaces in the cells, making it an electrical circuit.
This leads to the formation of direct current electricity when electrons flow through such a circuit.
Solar panels are wired to the battery through a charge controller. This process helps in protecting the battery by ensuring the backflow of current does not take place. Solar cells stop this conversion rate and discontinue the production of power at night.
When there is less sunlight to convert, the photoreceptors on the light sense the insufficiency and start supplying power to the LED. The photoreceptor shuts off the light during the day time and this process repeats itself on a daily basis.
The most common type of solar lighting is solar street lights. These lights are a compact modern form of solar lighting. They are easy to install, requiring low maintenance.
How is solar light used on a daily basis?
Solar lights are used for both outdoor and indoor purposes. Solar-powered lighting can be installed in various public as well as private sectors.
The highly used and common solar lighting includes:
Solar street light designs that are compact and lightweight. They are used in various outdoor lighting applications to light up streets, highways, gated properties, pathways, resorts, backyards, patios, lawns, pergolas, construction sites, play areas, school and college buildings, among other areas.
Solar garden lights are available in modern designs and multiple styles. These are usually decorative lights aimed at improving the aesthetic value of the garden, and to provide security and sustainability. These types of lights are used in gardens along with lawns, fences, terrace, parks, open-air restaurants, courtyard, balconies, decks, and stairs, among other areas and purposes.
Solar emergency lights are known to be a versatile fit for applications such as hiking, rescue operations, car repairs, home security, camping, fishing and other outdoor activities. These lights are applicable during power outages as they have an in-built feature to power-up electronic devices.
Solar floodlights and spotlights provide focused lighting. They are used where illumination is required in a broad-light angle. This includes areas such as vast parking lots, concert halls, boulevards, sports fields, civilian and military security installations, façade lighting, airports, manufacturing plants and architectural buildings.
Indoor solar lights are used as an alternate power source. Of course, this could be in the case of alternating between main grid power supply and generators. Indoor solar lights provide different features and are usually connected to solar panels setup on the top of the building.