How Do Solar Energy Panels Work – We all know that solar photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into usable electricity, but few people know the actual science behind the process. This week on the blog we’re focusing on the deep science behind the sun. It seems complicated, but it all boils down to the photovoltaic effect; the ability of matter to emit electrons when exposed to light.
Before we get to the molecular level, let’s look at the basic flow rate of electricity generation:
Now that we have a basic idea about the production and flow of solar electricity, let’s dive into the science behind solar voltaic panels.
Solar photovoltaic panels consist of many small photovoltaic cells; that is, photovoltaics can convert sunlight into electricity. These cells are made of a non-conductive material, specifically silicon, a material that can conduct electricity while maintaining the electrical balance required to create an electric field.
When sunlight hits the semiconductor in a solar cell (step 1 in our high-level overview), the light’s energy, in the form of photons, is absorbed, releasing some electrons, which are then free to roam the cell. A solar cell is specifically designed with positively and negatively charged semiconductors mixed together to form an electric field (see left image for diagram). This electric field forces the stray electrons to flow in a certain direction, towards the metal plates that conduct the cell. This flow is known as power flow, and the current strength determines how much electricity each cell can produce. When the loose electrons hit the metal plates, a current is directed into the wire, allowing the electrons to flow as in any other electrical source (step 2 of our process).
When a solar panel generates electricity, the energy flows through an array of wires to an inverter (see step 3 above). While solar panels generate direct current, most electricity consumers need alternating current to power their buildings. The function of an inverter is to convert electricity from direct current to alternating current to make it available for daily use.
After the electrical energy is converted to a usable state (electrical interruption), it is sent from the transformer to the electrical panel (also called the switch box) [4. stage], and if necessary it is distributed throughout the building. Electricity is now easily available with solar energy for electric lights, household appliances and other electrical appliances.
Any electricity that is not used through the junction box is sent to the grid through the meter (our last step, as described above). The meter measures the flow of electricity from the grid to your property and vice versa. When your solar energy system produces more electricity than you use on site, this meter goes backwards, and you are responsible for the excess electricity produced in the net metering process. When you use more electricity than your solar panel provides, you draw additional electricity from the grid through this meter to maintain normal operation. Unless you’re completely off the grid with a storage solution, you’ll need to draw power from the grid, especially at night when your solar array isn’t producing. However, most of that grid power will be offset by the extra solar power you generate during the day and off-peak hours.
Although the details of solar energy are very scientific, you don’t need to be a scientist to convey the benefits that solar installation can bring to a business or property owner. An experienced solar developer can help you review these benefits and determine if a solar solution is right for your business.
Powering your home with solar energy is not a new concept, especially with recent technological advances and low costs, solar energy has become an attractive option for many homeowners.
This promising source of renewable energy has also become increasingly available, with many electric cooperatives offering community solar programs as an alternative to purchasing a rooftop solar panel. This helps reduce costs and puts the burden of maintenance and operation of the system on the corporation.
The question that remains for many is how do solar panels actually generate electricity? Let’s break down this seemingly abstract concept and take a closer look at how to convert sunlight into usable electricity.
The solar panels you see on street signs or rooftops are made up of small photovoltaic cells; “photo” means light, and “voltaic” means the production of electricity. These cells consist of two layers of semiconductor material, usually silicon, which is the main component of solar panels. These cells are permeated with additional elements that give the top layer a negative charge and the bottom layer a positive charge. These two layers of silicon are also included among other coatings, including a glass casing, to improve the photovoltaic cell’s energy production and protect it from external contamination.
Now that you understand the construction of these panels, let’s examine the electrical process they enable. Every day, our sun emits large amounts of solar energy in the form of photons, which are tiny particles of light. When these n photons collide strongly enough with PV cells, electrons are ejected from atoms in the top layer of the cell’s silicon, leaving gaps that must be filled by electrons in the bottom layer. As a result of the electric field created by the two layers of silicon, the free electrons will circulate in one direction through the cell, towards the metal sides of the solar panel, producing a direct current (DC).
This is where the power transformer comes into play. The newly produced electrical energy is supplied from the panel through conductive wires to the inverter system. This system exists because most of our electrical and electronic devices use AC or alternating current. An inverter takes care of this difference and converts electricity from direct current to alternating current, which enables us to charge our phones and watch television using electricity produced by solar panels.
When electricity is present in the alternating current, it flows through the inverter to efficiently distribute the electrical loads. Unused solar energy will flow through your electricity meter and back into the grid.
Community solar, a shared solar power model offered by cooperatives, allows cooperatives to create a range for members who can buy electricity or rent panels. This type of program makes solar more affordable for cooperative members who cannot install rooftop solar due to geographic, financial, maintenance or other limiting factors. Solar energy starts with the sun. Solar panels (also known as “PV panels”) are used to convert sunlight, which contains energy particles called “photons”, into electricity that can be used to power electrical appliances.
Solar panels can be used for a variety of applications, including remote power systems for cabins, telecommunications equipment, remote sensors and of course generating electricity for residential and commercial solar systems.
On this page we will discuss the history, technology and benefits of solar panels. We will learn how solar panels work, how they are manufactured, how they generate electricity and where solar panels can be purchased.
The development of solar energy is more than 100 years old. In the early days, solar energy was mainly used to generate steam that could later be used to power plants. But it wasn’t until Edmond Becquerel discovered the “photovoltaic effect” that would make it possible to convert sunlight into solar electricity. Becquerel’s discovery led to the invention by Charles Fritts in 1893 of the first true solar cell made by coating selenium plates with a thin layer of gold. And from this humble beginning, the device as we know it today was born
Russel Ohl, an American inventor on the payroll of Bell Laboratories, patented the world’s first silicon solar cell in 1941. Ohl’s 1954 invention led to the same company producing the first solar panel. Solar panels found their first major use in space satellites. For many people, the first solar panel in their life was probably attached to their new calculator – around the 1970s!
Today, solar panels and complete solar panel systems are used to power a variety of applications. Yes, solar panels in the form of solar cells are still used in calculators. However, it is also used to provide solar energy for entire homes and office buildings, such as Google’s headquarters in California.
Solar panels collect clean, renewable energy in the form of sunlight and convert that light into electricity
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