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Last updated: 01 April 2019

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Learn How Solar Energy Is Converted into Electricity with Solar Panels

As green sources of energy become more popular, solar energy has become a trendy topic and an option of investment to many. Although the term is broad, solar energy is generally associated with solar panels (or photovoltaics, PV). A lot of people have already chosen these systems for their households, and many others are interested in investing in solar PV in the future.

Usually what is most typically commented is the benefits of this source of energy: put very shortly, that it is clean and eventually free (once the system is installed). However, you might be curious to know how solar panels actually work- how this mechanism transforms sunlight into electricity that is then available for household purposes.

Here Is a Video That Explains How Solar Panels Work:

Read more: Go Green, Go Solar!

Now in words. Solar panels are typically installed in rooftops, or somewhere where they can get as much sunlight as possible. A semiconductor (typically silicon) is mounted beneath non-reflective glass to produce solar panels collect photons from the sun and convert them into DC electrical power. On average, a solar panel has an efficiency of 17%, which means it will transform 17% of the sunlight it receives into electricity. That DC power then flows into an inverter, which transforms it into basic AC (alternating current) electrical power. It is important to know that solar panels consist of solar cells that are connected together, and it is the cells that actually capture the sunlight to convert it into electricity. The following image illustrates the cross section of a solar cell:

Solar _cell2

Moreover, solar panels are generally connected to the grid. This is a bit more expensive, but very useful in two senses. First, during the night, when the sun doesn’t shine, solar panels can’t generate electricity, but if you are connected to the grid, then you can get what you need. Your system will use energy from the grid ONLY when your solar system does not produce it. Second, if it happens that your solar panel system produces more energy than what you need, this energy can go back to the grid and you will be paid for it by your energy supplier. However, you can also choose to install a stand alone PV system (not connected to the grid).

Furthermore, another important thing regarding how solar panels work is that they need sunlight (not heat) to work. This means that they work even when the days are cloudy. It is true though, that solar panels should be located where they can get as much direct sunlight as possible (away from the shade of trees for example) in order to maximize their efficiency.

Read more: How Efficient are Solar Panels?

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