Skip to main content.

How Solar Energy Works

The sun is one of the most valuable power sources available. We are committed to advancing solar technology and using the reliable, cost-effective, renewable energy sources that work best in our state.

Solar Energy: Understanding the Two Types

aerial view showing solar panels on roof

Solar Electric Power

In this approach, electricity is converted directly from solar energy through solar cells known as photovoltaic cells – "photo" for light and "voltaic" for energy. Normally mounted on the roof or in a location with maximum sun exposure, the photovoltaic (PV) array components convert energy from the sun into electric current to power appliances and other household devices. A PV system requires little maintenance and can produce power for more than 20 years.

solar panel grid

Solar Thermal Energy

Heating water using electricity can make up 14-25% of the average home's utility bill. A residential solar water heating system can be designed to meet between 50 and 80% of a home's water heating requirements. A solar water heating system requires collectors to absorb the sun's energy and a storage system to hold the energy until it is needed. The systems used to store thermal energy are similar to conventional water heaters. The heated water is circulated through the home or building using pumps.