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Thomas' Tech Tales

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Photovoltaics Growing

Photovoltaic technology is the fastest growing technology in the world today, with its capacity doubling every two years. You have all heard about it and like a lot of people, probably think it is ugly and undesirable.

If you are not up to date with your Latin vocabulary, of course, you might be wondering what I am talking about. Basically it breaks down into photo, being light, and volt, being energy. So pretty much when someone tries to sound smart and uses the word photovoltaic they are probably talking about what the layman would call solar panels, or PV.

When they first arrived on the market PV panels were mostly a flop; they didn’t provide much energy, they were ugly, they were big, they were expensive, and they just didn’t have much appeal to Americans. Since then, well they really have not changed all that much in appearance. On the other hand, this is now the fastest growing technology and with growth comes improvements.

There are many different ways to get electricity using PV panels, but all of them use silicon. Silicon is a natural substance found in sand that absorbs sunlight. When the sunlight is absorbed the silicon produces a small amount of electricity. Traditional PV panels have a metal grid that channels the electricity into the power controls. The silicon can also be made and manipulated, this way people can try to control how much electricity is produced by the silicon and how to apply it.

Even the government is getting behind solar energy, even though it is an alternative fuel that the big oil companies don’t support… weird huh? The government offers tax breaks to people who set up panels for their home or business. In some states people put the energy that they make with their panels back into the system, and that shows up as a credit on their energy bill. This is really only practical in the larger cities with large power grids in the states that provide this service. That’s not to stop someone up here from putting up PV panels, though.

My neighbors set up their house with some just this last year. I look over to their house when our power has gone out to see them oblivious to the fact that the rest of us are left in the dark. The panels put power into batteries to save for such occasions, and the rest of the time run appliances.

If you are one of those people who finds solar panels ugly and would never dream of putting them on or near their house, you might soon find their inner beauty is what counts. With technological advances happening every day they might soon become affordable for the average person, and who knows, they might actually stop looking like oversize legos. Of course there is always the classic solar panels which just use the sun’s energy to heat water, and if you can not afford the PV panels this could be a great way to start.

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Author info

Thomas McMahon Thomas McMahon is a student at Albertson's College of Idaho who, when he's not playing some geeky video game or designing some new, award-winning engineering project, plays basketball and tennis. His study interest is engineering.

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