How Do Solar Panels Work?

February9, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

solar panelsThe magic of solar energy is that it takes something natural and inexhaustible—the sun—and uses it to generate something powerful, useful and in-demand—electricity. Thanks to the increased publicity and popularity regarding both the environmental and financial benefits of solar power, many more consumers and companies are becoming aware of this phenomenon. Yet, despite increased awareness about the existence of solar energy, there are still few people who understand how it works.

If you’ve ever wondered how something like solar roof panels are able to channel sunlight into power that can turn on lights and charge batteries, this post is for you!

Photovoltaic (PV) Technology

Photovoltaic (PV) technology is the name of the technology that turns sunlight into electrical power—that’s why solar panels are often called photovoltaic panels. One of the most common ways to harness the power of the sun, solar panels can be mounted to the roofs of buildings in a way that pulls energy to make electricity.

How does PV technology accomplish this? According to the website Solar Home, solar panels essentially work like this: “Silicon is mounted beneath non-reflective glass to produce photovoltaic panels. These panels collect photons from the sun, converting them into DC electrical power. The power created then flows into an inverter. The inverter transforms the power into basic voltage and AC electrical power.”

Or in other words, broken down, they work like this:

  1. The solar panels you attach to your roof have silicon underneath non-reflective glass.
  2. When light shines on the panels, the panels draw photons.
  3. The panels convert those photons into what’s called direct-current (DC) electrical power.
  4. The power flows to an inverter.
  5. The inverter turns the power into basic voltage and AC electricity.

Even on Cloudy Days

One of the surprising things about solar panels is that they don’t only work on sunny days. While “the stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced,” according to Energy Saving Trust, the truth is that solar panels also work on cloudy afternoons.

“On a normal cloudy day there is always enough solar irradiance, by which the panel will produce electricity,” says Green Brilliance. “The production of electricity is not as high..[but] even on a cloudy day, your panel will produce electricity.”

The Bottom Line

Solar panels provide a virtually maintenance-free solution for generating power and can last for as long as 30 years. The U.S. Department of Energy states that “PV systems can be designed to meet any electrical requirement, no matter how large or how small. You also can connect them to an electric distribution system (grid-connected), or they can stand alone (off-grid).”


To learn more about solar panels, contact us at Soluxe Solar!

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