How Much Energy Does Solar Energy Provide?

The Most Comprehensive DIY Solar Panel GuideQuestion: I have a big home with a high energy-usage. I’d like to go solar but I’m not sure if my home can be completely “off-grid”. How much energy does solar energy provide?

Answer: The sunlight that reaches the earth produces around 10,000 times the amount of energy that our planet consumes. The limitation does not lie with the sun, but only in our ability to capture and convert that energy into usable electricity. So how efficient are we? Let’s take a close look at one solar panel’s efficiency and find out. We’ll see how well one square meter of solar panel can convert the sun’s energy into usable electricity.

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In a given day in a sunny geographic region, one square meter of sunlight produces around 5 Kilowatt-hours (KWH) of energy, which is the amount of energy required to steadily produce 1000 watts for one hour. If we installed a one square meter solar PV panel on our roof, could we capture those 5 KWH and convert the energy to usable electricity? Actually no, we could only capture roughly 20% of that energy, due to inefficiencies in the solar panel cell’s conversion capability. So we could actually only capture 1KWH with a one square meter panel.

To put things in even more perspective, the average US household consumes around 900 KHW per month, or about 30 KWH per day. So to produce that much energy with solar technology, it would require about thirty panels, right? Unfortunately the answer is no again, because solar systems lose energy due to inefficiencies in other components of the solar system, namely wiring and conversion equipment.

Efficiencies of solar systems vary from system to system. To produce 5 KWH, let’s assume a system efficiency of 50%, you’re looking at ten solar panels that are each one square meter. To produce 30 KWH in a day (average energy usage for a US household), you’re looking at sixty panels.

One solar panel can be enough to provide enough energy to run a few appliances in your home. To power your entire household, it could take twenty panels, or more, depending on your energy usage. Luckily, in either case you will save money each and every month and eventually pay off your initial investment. For even more savings, solar panel kits are sold as DIY projects that are much easier to install than you might think.

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