How Does Solar Power Work?

October 30, 2019

The solar industry has emerged at the forefront of alternative energy, but how exactly does the technology behind solar power work? 

Solar POwer today

Solar power has revolutionized the way that consumers generate and use electricity. Panels are located everywhere. Whether its mass commercial industries, like IKEA and Walmart, to the rooftops of residential homes, to solar farms in rural areas, solar is everywhere.

Going solar saves money, empowers communities, and creates jobs. In recent years the technology and quality of solar panels have improved immensely. At the same time, cost has plunged to a much more affordable rate. The widespread transition to solar offers enormous promise for a non-carbon-emitting renewable future.

How solar power works

Each solar panel is made up of multiple rows of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight into electricity. A photovoltaic cell is like a sandwich made of two slices of silicon surrounding a non-metal conductive element that is used as a semiconductor. When light particles from the sun contact the cell, electrons are knocked free of their atoms and begin to move around. 

This process, known as the “photovoltaic effect,” initiates a flow of electricity called a Direct Current (DC). The DC transfers to an inverter and converts into Alternating Currents (AC). This is the electricity that then moves through wires to power your home. At the same time, any excess energy produced flows back to the grid. 

Other components that make up a solar panel include a protective glass casing, insolation, and various wiring mechanisms that allow electricity to flow. The glass exterior ensures durability and protection for the underlying silicon PV cells. Insolation, on the other hand, shields the cells from increases in temperature that may cause panel performance to be less efficient. 

Typically there are two types of silicon cells: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. A single continuous crystal structure forms Monocrystalline cells. They are the most advanced technology of the two, producing energy at a higher rate. Monocrystalline cell formats allow more room for electrons to move, offering a high-efficiency technology. Polycrystalline, as the name suggests, uses multiple silicon crystals. This structure, while less efficient, is a more affordable option. 

How long will solar panels last?

A solar system will generate clean energy for a long time! Most home systems will last decades. Even beyond this period, panels will likely continue to produce clean electricity, because the parts do not quickly wear and the PV cells within them have layers of protection.

Will solar panels work on cloudy, rainy, or cold days?

In short- yes! Although clouds and rain are not ideal for solar panels, they will still generate electricity in these conditions. If you have any doubts, consider China and Germany. While not always the warmest or the sunniest of places, they are two of the leading countries in solar energy production. Solar panels generate power by photons or light particles, not through heat. So, in the winter months or cloudier weather, your panels will be just as efficient if not more than they are in hot temperatures!

Take advantage of the benefits and strengths of clean, renewable energy. Contact Everlight Solar to set up a free consultation today!