How Solar Works Sunlight into Energy Explained

You received a bill from your energy company. The balance owed is higher than ever. And, you’re not satisfied with the service that your energy provider offers. During heavy snowstorms, the electrical grid goes out routinely.

Also, the power goes out in the afternoons all too frequently. Moreover, you read a local article exposing how the energy company had failed to invest in innovation infrastructure that would have prevented the blackouts. 

You’ve had enough. You want to switch energy providers, but you have nowhere else to go. Then, your daughter suggests switching over to solar power. You’re open to the idea, but you’re not sure how solar works.

How does solar energy work? 

Solar energy occurs when photons from the sun encounter solar cells. The solar cells capture electrons and use conductors to generate electricity. And, solar batteries store additional energy for future use. 

Solar power can replace traditional energy needs. And, it’s the fastest-growing energy source. This article will show how solar panels work in greater depth. Read further if you want to know more. 

Solar Panel Makeup

Solar panels are photovoltaic (PV). This means that silicon converts the sun’s light into electricity when sunlight contacts the silicon cells, otherwise known as the photovoltaic effect. The PV panels comprise solar cell wafers. Since silicon is a conductive property, and the wafers can convert sunlight into electricity. 

With that, the wafers need metallic casings and wirings to supply power to a home or business effectively. The supporting wirings and casings release the electrons and provide power.

Take note of the following solar panel components:

  • Metal frames
  • Glass sheets
  • 12V wires
  • Plexiglass
  • Silicon cells
  • Bus wires

The glass sheets hold the casings and protect the front side of the panel. Beneath the glass, the casings and back-sheets mitigate humidity within the panel. The insulation also prevents the panels from overheating. Overheating can damage the panels and reduce energy output. 

Solar Cell Manufacturing

The most important component of a solar panel is the solar cell. Solar manufacturers create the wafers as thinly as possible to maximize the value of the silicon crystals. 

Silicon comes in various cell formats, such as:

  • Monocrystalline (Single-cell)
  • Polycrystalline
  • Amorphous

Monocrystalline cells are the most effective. However, they’re more expensive to manufacture. And, they comprise a single crystalline structure. Manufacturers cut the material into wafers and install them on panels.

With that, the manufacturing process requires additional labor, which is why they’re more expensive. The monocrystalline variety has a solid, black appearance. 

On the other hand, polycrystalline cells derive from various silicon crystals. Makers infuse the materials into the panels. Even though polycrystalline is less efficient, it comes with a lower price tag. They normally have a bluish appearance. 

Amorphous silicon is the least effective silicon type when compared to monocrystalline and polycrystalline. However, they’re flexible in structure and are used to make thin, solar panels. Amorphous silicon doesn’t come in crystalline form. Rather, they’re attached to metal or glass. 

The Power of Solar Batteries

When it comes to the future of solar power, solar batteries play a vital role in the realm of storage. Solar batteries will store excess energy during the night and when clouds block the sun. Also, solar batteries are solid backup energy sources in the event of an emergency. 

Solar panels that convert additional energy will divert it to the battery. Typically, excess energy will divert electricity to the main power grid without the assistance of a battery.

Homeowners or business owners can get a credit on their bill for any power they contribute to local energy grids. With a solar battery, you can store additional energy without contributing to a primary power grid. 

However, solar batteries don’t come with the solar panel equipment. Therefore, you must choose between flooded-acid lead batteries, sealed-lead acid batteries, or lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are the most efficient. They also recharge faster and have a longer lifespan. 

Solar Inverter Functionality

 A solar panel comes with the following three parts:

  • Panels 
  • Inverters
  • Equipment

The inverter converts the direct current (DC) from the solar panel into an alternating current (AC), which is conventional electricity used to power appliances. The DC stems from the process of knocking the electrons loose within the solar panels. Overall, the transmitter runs the DC through various transistors that convert it into AC capacity.

You have various types of inverters to choose from:

  • Microinverter
  • String
  • Power Optimizer

Each inverter has different functions. For instance, the microinverter is more expensive but more efficient than string inverters. Further, it will support weaker solar panels that fail to generate sufficient electricity.

Also, it will convert DC to AC power on the solar panels themselves. And, microinverters work best on solar panels that are a spread out or face blockages from chimneys.

With string converters, they’re primarily used for small-scale solar systems. It converts DC to AC power using strings. They’re the cheapest to purchase and easy to maintain.

However, they’re only as strong as the panel itself. Weaker solar panels will cause weaker strings that fail to convert energy effectively. 

Power optimizers are a cross between string inverters and microinverters. They adjust the electricity before reaching the main inverter. However, the optimized variety must still transmit electricity to the main inverter. 

For instance, a powerful optimizer works well with a string converter. Also, a power optimizer and string converter would still cost less than a microinverter. 

It’s a viable alternative for anyone contending with a sub-par solar panel. And, it’s a good option for those who don’t want to purchase a microinverter in the short-term.

In some cases, the batteries have a separate inverter that can transmit the electricity.

How Solar Works Relative to Standard Energy

Solar power is a green alternative that can save on energy costs. Compared to fossil energy, solar has the advantage because it offers a limitless source of energy. Fossil fuels are finite resources. 

When it comes to how solar works, it’s a simple system that relies on silicon wafers, wires, and casings. The type of silicon chosen depends on the energy output.

Monocrystalline silicon provides the best energy output. When choosing a solar panel, assess it based on quality instead of cheaper prices.

Interested in reading more? Check out the rest of our articles to learn more.