How do solar panels work?
Solar panels absorb the sun’s energy throughout the day and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity. Then you will either use the electricity, send it back to the grid, or store it in your own battery backup.
Your typical solar panel is composed of photovoltaic (PV) cells, photovoltaic simply means it converts sunlight into energy. These cells are sandwiched between two pieces of semiconducting material, which is typically silicon. Silicon is commonly used because it can conduct electricity while maintaining an electrical imbalance needed to provide an electric field.
When the sunlight hits the panel, it first hits the semiconductor in the PV cells, allowing photons, or the particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, which generates the electric field. This electric field forces the electrons to flow to conductive metal plates located on the side of the panels, this is called an electric current. This electric current is directed to the wires, creating direct current (DC) electricity, and allows the electrons to flow like they do in any other electric generation.
While solar panels create DC electricity, standard consumers need alternating current (AC) electricity to power their lives. So once the electric current is flowing in the wires, it is sent to the inverter. The inverter’s job is to turn the DC electricity into AC electricity, making it accessible for everyday use. After the inverter has transformed the DC electricity into AC electricity, it sends the power to an electrical panel, commonly referred to as a breaker box. From here the energy is now ready to use to power your light, appliances, and any other electrical devices. Once the power reaches the electric panel and is ready for consumption. If the energy is not consumed it is then sent to your local power company’s electric grid, or built up in your own energy storage containment for use when your electric consumption is greater than your production capacity.
While the details behind solar can seem complex, the benefits of installing a solar array are simple. A solar expert can walk you through these benefits and help you explore if solar is the right option for you.
Basic steps to energy generation with solar panels
- Sunlight hits the panels, converting the sun’s energy into Direct Current (DC) electricity and creates an electric field
- The energy created then flows to a conductive wire from the panel which brings the energy created to an inverter
- The inverter converts Direct Current (DC) electricity into Alternating Current (AC) electricity
- Another wire delivers the AC energy created to your electrical panel which distributes the power as needed.