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How do solar panels work?

The easiest way to explain how solar panels work, is that they take the sunlight and convert it into electricity. This is done through a process called the photovoltaic effect, which is also why solar panels are called "Solar PV"; the PV stands for photovoltaic.

Here's a simple explanation of how solar panels work:

  1. The Photovoltaic Effect: Solar panels are made up of lots of solar cells, which are typically made of semiconductor materials like silicon. When the photons from sunlight hit the solar cells, it excites the electrons in the atoms of the semiconductor material.

  2. The electrons start moving: The electrons get excited and start moving around which creates an electric current. The semiconductor material directs these electrons down a specific path, creating an electric flow.

  3. The electrons flow in one direction: The solar cell has a built-in electric field due to the structure of the semiconductor material. This field causes the electrons to flow in a particular direction when they are released by the photon absorption.

  4. This starts generating electricity: The electric current produced by the flow of electrons is in the form of direct current (DC) electricity. This is the type of electricity that solar panels generate.

  5. The DC electricity is sent to the inverter: The DC electricity generated by the solar panels is then sent to the inverter, which converts the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is what is used in most homes and businesses.

  6. The electricity can then be used: The AC electricity is either used to power your home's electrical appliances and devices or, if there's excess energy, it can be fed back into the grid. This excess electricity can often be credited to the homeowner's utility bill through a process called net metering.

  7. It's integrated with the grid: Many solar PV setups are tied to the grid, meaning they are connected to the traditional electrical grid. When the solar panels produce more electricity than the household needs, the excess can be supplied to the grid. When the solar panels don't produce enough (e.g., during the night), electricity can be drawn from the grid.

Solar panels work brilliantly in areas with good sun exposure. The effectiveness of your solar panels can be improved further if they are orientated in the right direction, and angle, with minimal shading from trees etc. A reputable solar panel installer like Volta Green Energy can talk you through this during a survey of your property.

Even more exciting, as time goes on, advances in solar technology continue to improve efficiency and decrease costs, making solar power an increasingly attractive and viable source of renewable energy.

Want to find out more? Contact us today.

How do solar panels work?


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