How Do Solar Panels Work?
You are probably already familiar with what solar panels are capable of – but do you know the answer to “how do solar panels work?”. The entire process of converting sunrays into useable electricity may seem a bit complex at first, but it is actually quite simple when you break the technology down. Let’s explore how these panels work to power your home.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels are made by combining solar cells, that are responsible for converting sunshine into electricity. The solar cells are known as photovoltaic (PV) cells. They contain a thin semiconductor wafer that is made from two silicon layers – one is positively charged, while the other is negatively charged. Solar panels also consist of a metal frame. It is a glass casing that features a special film around it, in addition to the wiring that allows electricity from the solar cells to flow.
When sunrays hit the solar cells, they begin to absorb energy. This influx of energy around the wafer results in electrons from silicon atoms moving freely in an upward direction and direct current (DC) is generated. This electricity or current is then fed into a solar inverter so that it can be converted into usable alternating current (AC) for your home and other various electronics/appliances you use.
If you are looking for a detailed answer to “how do solar panels work?”, read on. Following are the key steps that are broken down to simplify the process of converting sunrays into electricity via solar panels:
- As stated before, solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells. When sunrays hit the panels, the photovoltaic cells absorb them and produce electricity through the Photovoltaic Effect. The electricity generated via this method is direct current (DC), which, as you may already know, cannot be used by your appliances in your home. That is why this direct current has to be directed to your inverter connected to your solar system.
- Your inverter then converts the direct current into alternating current (AC), which is suitable to be used in your home. From here, the alternative current is directed to your switchboard.
- The switchboard sends the usable AC electricity to the appliances installed in your home. The primary job of a switchboard is to make sure that the solar energy is used first to power the electronic devices or appliances in your home, only accessing extra energy from the grid when the electricity generated by your solar panels is insufficient.
- Every home with a solar system is required to have a bi-directional meter that your electrician will install for you. It is a utility meter that records all the power drawn to the house. Furthermore, it also records the amount of solar energy that is exported back to the grid. This is commonly known as net-metering.
- Any solar electricity that is unused is sent to the grid. This, ultimately, will result in credit on your energy bill, known as feed-in tariff (FiT). Your monthly energy bills will account for the electricity that you use from the grid, plus credits for the electricity produced by your solar panels that you have not used.
One thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to solar power, you do not need to switch it ON in the morning or OFF at night. This is because your solar panel system will do this automatically for you. Apart from this, you also do not need to switch between the grid and solar power either. Your solar system can determine which is best to do so on the basis of the amount of energy being consumed by your appliances.
Other Important Things to Know About Solar Circuits
Following are some other important things you should get familiar with:
Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline
There are two main types of solar panels, Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline. The solar cells of your panels have a specific microscopic structure. Both of these terms refer to that structure. A monocrystalline cell refers to a single, unbroken silicon crystal. Polycrystalline cells on the other hand, are made up of shards of silicon combined together. Generally, monocrystalline cells are more efficient because electrons can move more freely through the unbroken crystal lattice. However, they also cost more when compared to their polycrystalline counterparts.
A Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) solar charge controller is one of the many types of charge regulators available on the market. It is regarded as one of the most important components of a solar power system. It prevents the electricity in the battery pack from flowing back into your solar panels at night. Furthermore, it also prevents the battery from being overcharged during the day. Last but not least, the MPPT controller prevents extreme power discharges.
How Much Power Does a Solar Panel Produce?
The overall power output and efficiency of solar panels depend on many factors, such as location, weather, climate, etc. Dry climates are generally very suitable for solar panels, and under direct sunlight, your panels will produce more energy. But keep in mind that the power solar panels can produce and the power they deliver are two different things.
Advantages of Solar Panels
The key advantage of solar panels is that they are a renewable source of energy which means, there is no concern of depleting the reserves. Energy production via solar panels is also non-polluting and causes no harm to the environment. It is a free energy source and that is what consumers will benefit from directly. Last but not least, solar panels have no moving parts so they require very little maintenance and can last a lifetime. However, you will need to clean them from time to time to remove the dust settled on the surface of the solar panels. You should seek out a professional for this task as manoeuvring on top of the roof is not that easy.
Disadvantages of Solar Panels
The cons or disadvantages of solar panels include substantial upfront costs when buying the equipment. Furthermore, roof space may also be a problem depending on the roof style and orientation. While these panels are capable of producing electricity on cloudy days, they require direct sunlight to perform optimally. Problems like uneven distribution of solar power and no built-in solution to store energy also exist but they can be resolved by installing MPPT controllers and battery packs respectively.
As many power and fuel sources prove unsustainable for human use over time, it is extremely important to consider solar power as an option for your home or business. It significantly reduces your energy costs in the long run and also decreases your carbon footprint, leaving you with both lighter conscience and a thicker wallet. After reading the information provided above, you should be able to now answer, “how do solar panels work?”. Now you must determine whether or not a solar power system is right for your home or business as the final decision is yours and yours alone.