How Solar Energy Works: Part 1

GREEN HOME SHOW #25: How Solar Energy Works: Part 1 Understanding Solar Electricity is pleased to offer our members and website visitors original content that helps all of us save money and the environment. In addition to our ongoing research and writing on energy saving and home remodeling, we have partnered with THE GREAT GREEN HOME SHOW to offer you content like this that includes script excerpts from the weekly radio show. offers the exclusive world-wide on-demand access to the audio files, so you can now read and also listen for FREE to any of the shows at anytime. You can also learn about the show’s co-hosts Paul and Doug. Click here to listen to the show of your choice: Green and Home Improvement Radio Shows

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The following content is from THE GREAT GREEN HOME SHOW #25.

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The content of the GGHS is solely the responsibility of the ECF and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of WILM, its sponsors or Clear Channel Radio. Any rebroadcast, reproduction or use of the Great Green Home Show or its contents without written permission from the Green Fox, Paul Hughes, Doug Hunt, Aunt Jean, Brenna Wallace, Brooke Chase, the Watson Brothers, The Snap and the Sin City Band is strictly prohibited.

Overall Segment #1 – 9:00

Music & Introduction (Doug) – 3:30

Introduction – Good Morning!!! Welcome to another edition of the Great Green Home Show. We hope everyone is having a great weekend so far. We’d like to thank everyone who’s tuned in today, as well as those of you who are listening online at

As always, we’ll try to inform and entertain you as we try and give you all the latest information available regarding all things “green”. We’ll talk about how you can reduce your carbon footprint, save some energy, and most importantly, save you a little money... We have our recurring characters, helpful tips and “green” news items, both local and global.

This morning we're having a good time kicking around the new price of oil and a few other juicy topics.

I’m Doug Hunt, and next to me is my co-host, Paul Hughes. Good morning Paul, how was your week? Anything special happen? Anything particularly “green” going on?

Paul – well as you mentioned, we may kicking around the fact that oil is headed up and up and they're predicting it's going to hit $100 a barrel. That prediction came along about a week ago in Newsweek and Time and in the Wall Street Journal and we've already got the $90 a barrel mark. A lot of people would think this is pretty scary, But really there is so much that we can do to get ready to secure our lifestyles and actually have much better lives doing it.

As usual I’m conservation guy, and I suggest people cut back on their driving and rising gas prices may come down a bit as did in the summer, It is because there is less demand for oil and gas at present. So if we all start carpooling, and planning our trips to the grocery store, etc. even start using mass transit more, we can keep gas prices lower.

And there are also a lot of side benefits. You get to know the people in your neighborhood. And I know this is a novel idea I have lived in a few neighborhoods in my day and I found in some as I got older people didn't communicate as much as they used to when I was younger. I think it started happening with the TV and with more of an emphasis on mobility, travel and individual accumulation of things. And I'm not saying that any of this is bad, I'm not judging it at all, what I am saying is that I think the direction that the popular culture has taken us whether intentioned or not is in one of isolation in part from the people who live closest to us. I know we can argue this but I think that in a lot of cases this may be true. So without extended families around us we've lost touch with a much larger closer group that we used to hang out with and rely on and work with in order to reduce the cost of living for all.

So in this vein we are encouraging people to get together in their communities and neighborhoods and start organizing around saving energy. The neighborhood website should be finished soon and available as a template to do so.

We will be talking about other ways to organize, have fun deepen your relationships with your neighbors have potluck supper's and reduce your personal energy consumption and costs by getting together with your neighbors… just like they used to do in the good old days.

And don’t forget… recycle, conserve, and share…And use technology. Before we can get on with the show, we need to thank our sponsors. Paul?

Thanks to: – Suntrust Mortgage, CMI Electric, Energy Services Group, and Option Insurance Group. Also, Mark Unruh for the great music…. and listen to Scott Birney’s program on WVUD - 91.3 FM on Fridays…Doug... Protect us...

Todays Topic: Understanding Solar Electricity - 5:00 Sponsored by: Suntrust Mortgage of Christiana

Okay, today we're going to talk how electricity is made when sunshine falls on a silicone panel. I mean just how does this solar panel capture the sun and turned it into electricity that you can use in your house. First the sun isn't captured, it actually activates and sets free a small charged electron from the silicon atoms that make up the panel.

It involves electrons, protons, and neutrons. It has to do with the bonds between proton and electron, and the charges( Energy ) that the electrons carry when they break free. Protons have a positive charge, electrons have a negative charge and they move about and flow. The neutrons mostly hang out like buddies with the protons and keep an eye on the electrons who in this case have kind of a weak bond when silicon is mixed a little with phosphorous to knock and weaken the bonds,.

The solar panel silicon atoms electrons when mixed with phosphorous atoms tend to break off easier and wander around looking for a new positive charge proton to mate with even if it's temporary. Follow Me?

Silicon atoms share about four electrons with there neighbor silicon atoms and they are always looking to fill the empty voids left by wandering electrons. It's all about attraction, and positive and negative charge. The capturable energy is accessible when the electron breaks free from the proton. The trick of the solar panel comes during this separation. Once the sun has activated the atoms of silicon mixed with phosphorous and the electrons start wandering the trick is to capture them and get them to flow into the electric grid.

Now, this sounds a little complicated and even Paul and I don't understand all of it. So.... we called in one of our resident experts, who’s done a little studying on this, even though it's not his actual field of expertise. It appears he has a loose grasp on it but since he has a way with words, we’re going to let him give us, in his unique way, an explanation that's a little bit easier to understand. And for the first time ever, he’s actually here in the studio with us today.

So please welcome Forensic Roadside Animal Fatality Pathologist, Professor Cletus T. Beaumont the world's foremost authority on roadkill and our resident research-ologist on solar electricity.

Doug: Welcome Professor, thanks for stopping by:

PCTB: No problem Doug. When it comes to savin’ critters by the side of the road or in an unfortunate case, providin’ roadside recipes, I'm your man. When they asked me to do some research on this electron proton electron new trackin’ thing well, it was not easy but here goes.....

I can tell you... it isn’t really analogous to a truck runnin’ down the road and animals runnin’ out and bein’ attracted to light and then gettin’ smacked and knocked around. If you was askin’ about a nuclear reactor and how it works, well that’s like a truck barrelin’ into a whole bunch objects and the speed at which they fly away from the bumper.

Doug: Ok Professor, but that really tells us what it isn’t like. Can you please tell us what it is like.

PCTB: You see Doug, the sun activates and adds enough energy to the silicon atom which is always looking to fill one of its positive voids, and it and the other atoms trade their electrons when phosphorous is added to the crystal.... and as the electrons break their bonds and create voids in the atoms equilibrium, the movement of electrons sets off a charge which then spills over, and it passes down the passageway and into the grid. Basically, it works and makes capturing sunlight and using the power of Sun limitless.

Doug: That sounds very scientific and great and stuff Professor, but could you explain it in a way that someone like me can understand?

PCTB: Well Doug, the best I can come up with is that this here silicon atom solar reaction is just like my extended family and their neighbors up in the hills of West Virginia.

You see, if you think of my cousins as the protons and their wives as the electrons, I think it’ll make it easier to understand. Every Saturday night, all my cousins and all their cousins and all their cousins like to go out to a little place we call Pink Squirrel Roadside Cafe. Now the husbands, who’re the protons, always head for the bar as soon as they get there. The wives, who’re the electrons, follow them to the bar, but as you can guess, they'd rather be somewhere else and usually with someone else. Now picture that the bartender, my cousin Randy, is the neutron, the moonshine everybody’s drinkin’ is sunshine and the band is additional heat. Ya with me so far Doug?

Doug: Not even vaguely professor, but I do need a drink now.

PCTB: It’ll be clear as mud in just a minute. Ok, so far we got the Beaumont family, which is silicon, where the men is protons and women is electrons and the bartender is a neutron and moonshine is sunshine.

Now I know it can be confusin’ ‘cause, well this is the hills of West Virginia and sometimes we fergit who’s cousins with who, but bear with me and we’ll see if we can’t confound the bejesus outta ya. Ok, so the men and women start drinkin’ moonshine, or as I explained, the protons and the electrons start gettin’ exposed to sunlight. And the moonshine starts to loosen the bond between the men and the woman. And the poor neutron, well he can’t keep an eye on everything! That neutron is pourin’ drinks for everybody all night and nobody tips him worth a crap and he has to clean up at the end of the shift after everyone’s had way too much sunshine… and did I mention how nasty the protons room can git? Although you’ll almost never find out that someone has tried to flush feminine hygiene products down the toilet in the protons room. Anyway, the neutron (our bartender) has to choose who he’s gonna keep an eye on and it’s usually the protons, ‘cause they can do more damage and lord knows you can’t ever tell an electron what to do anyway, am I right Doug?

Doug: Yeah, I think so Professor, although I’m pretty sure I won’t be going to West Virginia any time soon.

PCTB: Not a problem Doug, but if ya ever change yer mind, let me know. I’ve got a cousin down there I’d love fer you to meet.

Alright, so here’s where we are. The protons and electrons have all had a buncha sunshine and everybody’s gettin’ real juiced, and there’s so much energy in the place that you just know that somethin’ is gonna happen! And everyone grabs a partner and heads for the dance floor ‘cause now the band is all warmed up, makin’ extra heat, and you go dance with your wife or your cousin, like you haven’t danced for years.

Now all of a sudden a bunch of rough lookin’, outta town bikers come in the bar with their girlfriends. Now the bikers are the phosphorous, and they get all liquored up on moonshine and start spillin’ out on the dance floor and everybody's dancing around and bumpin’ inta each other and lookin’ at each others wives and girlfriends, and yet, they keep drinkin’ more moonshine.

So a buncha the protons decide they want to shoot some pool and they leave their electrons on the dance floor. Well the phosphorous just comes over and starts pickin’ off the electrons at will ‘cause they’ve had way too much sunshine. One of the protons looks over and sees the phosphorous touchin’ his electron and he goes beserk! Now this is where it all happens ‘cause the whole place breaks out in a big bar fight and spills out into the street, with everybody dancin’ and fightin’ and lettin’ out a whole lotta energy that was most certainly due to over exposure to sunshine. Now I don’t know how it works where you grew up Doug, but someone puts a hand on my electron, he better prepare to have his phosphorous butt handed to him. I mean, it just ain’t right!
...well you get the point. And that, Dougie, is the whole thing in a nutshell.

Doug: Professor, I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I think I now, actually understand Solar collection based on that incredibly disturbing analogy. Thanks so much Professor… and please write us and tell us about your next trip to West Virginia to see your relatives. I think we’d all like to hear that story.

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