All of us have wondered, How do solar panels produce electricity? How does the whole system work?
STEP 1: SUNLIGHT ACTIVATES THE PANELS.
Each individual panel is made of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, and a glass shell surrounded by a special film and wiring. For maximum effect, the panels are grouped into “fields” (ordered series) and placed on rooftops or in large outdoor spaces. Solar cells, which are also referred to as photovoltaic cells, absorb sunlight during daylight hours.
STEP 2: CELLS PRODUCE ELECTRIC CURRENT.
Inside each solar cell is a thin semiconductor wafer made of two layers of silicon. One layer is positively charged and the other negatively charged, creating an electric field. When light energy from the sun hits a photovoltaic solar cell, it excites the cell and causes electrons to be “released” from the atoms in the semiconductor wafer. These free electrons are set in motion by the electric field surrounding the wafer, and this motion creates an electric current.
STEP 3: CONVERSION OF ELECTRICAL ENERGY.
Now you have solar panels that effectively convert sunlight into electricity, but the electricity generated is called direct current (or direct current) electricity, which is not the type of electricity that powers most homes, which is alternating current (or alternating current). Fortunately, direct current electricity can be easily changed to alternating current electricity using a device called an inverter. In modern solar systems, these inverters can be configured as a single inverter for the entire system or as individual microinverters attached behind the panels.
STEP 4: THE CONVERTED ELECTRICITY POWERS YOUR HOME.
Once solar energy is converted from DC to AC electricity, it passes through your electrical panel and is distributed throughout the home to power your appliances. It works in exactly the same way as electricity generated through your electricity company’s network, so nothing needs to change in the home. Since you still remain connected to your traditional energy company, you can automatically draw additional electricity to make up for any shortfall in solar power from the grid.
STEP 5: THE NET METER MEASURES USAGE.
On cloudy days and overnight, your solar shingles or panels may not be able to capture enough sunlight to be used as energy; conversely, in the middle of the day when no one is home, they can collect excess energy – more than you need to run your home. This is why a meter is used to measure the electricity flowing in both directions – to and from your home. Your utility company will often give you credits for any excess power you send back to the grid. This is known as net metering.
Now that you know the basics of solar power, you may be amazed at how today’s photovoltaic technology can capture the enormous power of the sun to power your home. It may not be rocket science – but it’s certainly human ingenuity at its best.