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).