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A professional guide to how solar panels work

Have you ever wondered how those sleek solar panels on rooftops are harnessing the power of the sun to turn sunlight into electricity? Well, in this article, we dive into the nitty-gritty of how solar panels work their magic. From photons to electrons, we unravel the fascinating science behind solar power and how they’re changing the game for sustainable energy.

Solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. The basic component of a solar panel is the solar cell, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) cell. 

Here’s a simplified explanation of how solar panels work:

  • Solar panels are made up of many individual solar cells, which are typically made of semiconductor materials such as silicon. It is the photovoltaic (PV) cells in solar panels that generate direct current.
  • When sunlight (compost of photons) hits the solar cells, it excites the electrons in the semiconductor material and the cells begin moving in one direction and bouncing into each other.
  • The excited electrons create an electric current. This flow of electrons is what we know as electricity.
  • The direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar cells needs to be converted into alternating current (AC), which is the type of electricity used in most homes and businesses (our blog on the difference between AC and DC electricity explains this in greater detail). This conversion is done by an inverter.
  • The converted AC electricity can be used to power electrical devices in your home or can be fed back into the electrical grid, depending on the setup. If connected to the grid, excess electricity can be sold back to a utility company or used during times when the solar panels are not producing enough power.
  • If your solar panel system comprises of energy storage solutions, such as solar batteries, you will be able to store excess electricity generated during sunny periods for use during cloudy days or at night (rather than selling back to the utility company).

The Impact Solar Panel Brand And Size Has On The Amount Of Power Your System Produces.

The choice of solar panel brand and the size of the panels you choose play a crucial role in determining the number of solar cells and, consequently, the amount of power a home solar system can produce. Let’s breakdown how these factors interplay:

Solar panel brand

Different solar panel manufacturers use varying technologies, materials, and manufacturing processes. The efficiency and overall performance of solar panels can vary between brands. Higher-quality panels often come with a higher price tag, but they may offer better efficiency, durability, and warranties. When choosing a brand, it’s essential to consider factors such as the efficiency of the panels, their history in the industry, and the warranty offered.

9x435W Jinko solar panels with Solaredge inverter

Solar panel size

The physical dimensions of a solar panel are related to its power output. Larger panels generally have more surface area and can accommodate more solar cells. The power rating of a solar panel is usually measured in watts (W) and represents the maximum amount of power the panel can generate under standard test conditions. Common residential solar panels have power ratings ranging from 250W to 450W.
tarven solar energy jake syrocki 2

Jake Syrocki
Director at Tarven Solar Energy, adds:

Currently, we use Jinko 435W solar panels as standard because they come with a 30-year performance warranty. The Jinko brand is also well established since it began in 2006, while several other brands have ceased trading. Even after 30 years, Jinko’s panels are guaranteed to still produce at least 87% of the electricity they did when they were brand new. That’s a pretty solid promise. 

Now, there are cheaper solar panels available, but they might only have a 25-year warranty and by that time, they could be down to 80% operating efficiency. So, even though they cost less upfront, you might end up with less power production overall.

On the flip side, some high-end panels offer a 40-year warranty, but they do cost more initially. It’s like paying a premium for peace of mind that your panels will keep producing energy for a more extended period. So, it’s a trade-off between the upfront cost and the long-term performance and warranty of the solar panels.

Number of solar cells

The number of solar cells within a panel is determined by the panel’s size and efficiency. Remember, solar cells are the individual units within a panel that convert sunlight into electricity. Higher-efficiency panels can produce more power with a smaller number of cells, but they may also be more expensive. In contrast, lower-efficiency panels may require a larger number of cells to achieve the same power output.

System power production

When designing a solar power system for a home or business, the total power production is influenced by the combined capacity of all the solar panels installed. The more panels you have, the greater the overall power output of your system. This is a crucial consideration when determining how much electricity you want your solar installation to generate based on your energy needs.

How easy are solar panels to break?

Solar panels are very durable. They have a similar durability as double-glazed windows. Put simply, solar panels are comprised of a backplate for reflections, a silicon filling (or other semiconductor material), with a layer of toughened glass on top. 

In summary, solar panels harness the energy from sunlight and convert it into usable electrical power. This renewable energy source is environmentally friendly and helps reduce dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels. The brand and size of solar panels impact the number of solar cells and, consequently, the overall power production of a solar system. Homeowners should balance factors such as panel efficiency, cost, and available roof space to determine the optimal configuration for their specific needs. 

We would always recommend consulting with a reputable solar installer such as Tarven Solar Energy. We can provide valuable insights and help tailor a solar solution that aligns with both energy requirements and budget considerations. Check out our wealth of customer reviews for inspiration and reassurance. If you would like to talk one of our solar experts, please contact us at your convenience. We’d love to help.

Choose us for high-quality solar panel installation or electrical services. Getting started is as simple as contacting us on 020 8087 0216 or sending an email to office@tarvenlimited.co.uk.