how do solar panels work

Understanding How Solar Panels Work. Solar panels take advantage of the sun’s energy, that is free and powerful. The energy transmitted by the sun in one hour is more than that used on the earth’s surface in one year. Solar panels convert this energy from the sun into electricity, making it a clean, simple and cost-effective power source. It is unlimited therefore dependable, unlike other sources.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are placed on roofs or open ground. These panels are usually frames made of solar photovoltaic cells. The photovoltaic cells are layers of polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon. Silicon is a semi-conductor; it therefore has most properties of metals and insulators as well, making it a key component in the design of solar panels. The working concept of solar panels can be divided into a series steps.

i. Radiations from the sun hit the photovoltaic cells and are the effect from the cells produces a direct current (DC) energy.

ii. This Direct Current is converted to Alternating Current energy (AC) using an Inverter.

iii. The AC electricity produced is used to power appliances and storage batteries through the wiring system.

The Photovoltaic Effect.

In simple terms, the concept of a working of solar panel is allowing photons, or light particles, to knock free electrons in atoms, which generate electric flow. Photovoltaic cells (photovoltaic implies they can convert sunlight to electricity) are the basic working units of solar panels.

Every photovoltaic cell is a made up of two layers of a semi-conducting material, usually silicon. To work, the photovoltaic cells creates an electric field, that occurs due to separation of opposite charges, just as in magnetic fields. The resulting field is brought about by doping silicon with other materials such as phosphorous or boron that gives a negative or positive electrical charge on either side of the cell. Doping silicon enhances the flow of electrons when light photons hit the free electrons. The electron field created pushes electrons from the silicon junction. The electron flow moves as a steady electrical current from across the cells from one to the other. The sides of the PV cells have conductive metal plates that collect the electrons, transferring them to the wires. At this point, the electrons flow as in other sources of electricity. The entire process is the photovoltaic effect; where the light photons are converted into electricity (measured in voltage).

These photovoltaic cells are highly efficient and needs no maintenance apart from cleaning the cells at least once in a year. Some other types of solar power technology such as concentrated solar power (CSP) and solar thermal operate in a different way other than photovoltaic solar panels. However, they all use sunlight energy to either produce electricity or heat air and water.

AC to DC Conversion at the Inverter.

The electricity generated by solar cells is in the form of a direct current (DC). Home appliances are powered using an alternating current; therefore, an inverter is used for the DC to AC conversion. After conversion, it becomes a 120-volt electricity. The AC is connected to the local utility electricity distribution grid. This connection ensures that if more power is generated, it is transmitted back to the mains national electricity grid for redistribution to other parts hence generating some energy credit for you. The credit can be used to cater for energy costs for power provided by your local supplier when your solar power system is inactive. This reduces the monthly electric bill, and at times, you earn from it. The solar power inverter acts as part of the switching system controls solar power produced during the day and utility power supplied at night. Advanced inverters are used for data monitoring for your solar system performance alongside other grid integration services.

Solar Power Battery
The last component for solar power systems, however optional, is a set of batteries. In case the power generated is more than what the household can consume, the excess can be stored in a battery in the form of direct current electricity. This allows you to use solar energy even at night in case you are not connected to a local utility supplier. You can also use the stored power first before switching to utility. It is also useful when there is a blackout in your area.

Lowering Your Energy Costs Through Solar Panels.

Understanding how do solar panels work, in existence of an installed electricity service instead is the key to understanding the maximum utilization and economics of solar energy. Solar panel prices have also reduced in the recent years making this viable option to achieve greater economies of scale. Solar panels are therefore economical to use in any household, commercial or residential environment. Some other benefits you can gain from using solar panels include:

i. Solar energy is unlimited and reliable- The sun’s energy is free and unlimited, therefore a secure power source. Solar power provides consistent energy reliability in most parts of the world. The amount of sunlight received in different locations during a specific season can be easily projected, making use of solar panels more reliable.

ii. Guaranteed Performance- Solar energy prices do not hike compared to other electricity providers, and can be easily generated, therefore reducing bills. Solar panel manufacturers also provide a 20- to 25-year warranty or performance guarantee with most of their solar panels. As well, the solar industry standards guarantee over 80% performance even after the 25 years warranty period. Solar panels have a long lifespan, offering productivity up to 40 years. They also come with very low (to almost none) maintenance requirements.

iii. Solar panels provide energy independence – Installing solar panels ensure energy security boost and independence. Extensive use of solar energy leads to reduced costs of gas and oil imports.

iv. Solar Panels provide a clean and environment-friendly energy source – Unlike other energy sources such as fossil fuels that cause air pollution and eventually global warming, electricity from solar panels is clean with no adverse effects. Apart from the financial point of view on solar energy, it has many environmental benefits, the level of Carbon footprint can be lowered by replacing electricity from utility providers with clean energy from solar panels.

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