How Does Solar Power Work?

Residential Solar Panels

As more people around the globe convert to renewable energy sources, more solar panels have been installed on the roofs of homes and businesses. However, those who are unfamiliar with solar energy may want an important question answered before they invest in panels for their home: How does solar power work? 

Here are the fundamentals of solar panels, from what they’re made with to how they function and in what conditions they can create clean energy effectively.

What are the Photovoltaic Cells in Solar Panels?

Solar panels are able to generate renewable energy from the sun thanks to the photovoltaic cells inside them. The term photovoltaic means ‘capable of converting sunlight into electricity, and this gives panels the properties needed to generate power from solar energy..

Photovoltaic cells consist of two slices of semi-conducting material, like silicon. It is vital for these materials to not only conduct electricity but also be capable of maintaining an electrical imbalance, which is necessary for the solar panel to function. Multiple photovoltaic cells are wired together to create a complete solar panel.

How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?

At first glance, the creation of solar energy can be difficult to understand, given how many complex processes are involved. However, it is possible to break them down into several steps to help individuals better comprehend how solar panels generate electricity. Listed below is the journey that sunlight takes to become the renewable energy powering your home.

  1. The energy of the light is absorbed into the solar cell’s semiconductor as photons, which are particles of light.
  2. These photons knock the electrons loose from their atoms as they hit the solar cell.
  3. The loose electrons flow toward the conductive metal plates because of the electric field created by the oppositely charged semiconductors.
  4. This flow is the electric current, and when this current is directed toward the wires, the electrons begin to flow just like other electrical sources.
  5. The energy then flows into an inverter, which converts it into AC power, also known as alternating current, that homes can use.

If a home with solar panels produces more electricity than it currently needs, unused electricity is sent to a utility grid. In some cases this is known as net metering, where homeowners receive a credit on their electric bill for excess solar energy that is exported to the grid. Several factors influence the ability to receive a credit for solar panels, and interested homeowners should do their own research if they are interested in receiving solar tax credits.

What are the Best Conditions for Solar Power?

Though solar energy is a clean source of electricity, certain factors can determine how effective it is at producing renewable energy. Sunny areas that do not have frequent cloud cover receive the most sunlight, making solar panels in such locations the most effective. However, solar panels in cloudy places can still generate electricity, albeit at a reduced rate. Sunlight can penetrate through clouds, allowing cloudy locations like Seattle and London to produce solar energy.

Additionally, weather and the seasons can influence how effective solar panels can produce electricity. In the summer months, the days are longer, meaning solar panels can receive more sunlight than in the winter months. But the colder seasons can benefit solar panels in another way, as electricity moves with less resistance in colder weather. Therefore, solar panels can benefit from both extreme seasons but in different ways.

To learn more information about commercial solar installations in Austin, TX, contact Texas Solar Guys for additional details!