If you’re thinking of going green when it comes to the energy your household uses, then you may be wondering “how do solar panels work?”. Few of us are lucky enough to own the land needed to build our own wind farm, but the majority of us do have a roof over our heads on which solar panels can be installed, helping to build a more secure future for the planet and for our children. At Material Solar, we want to make our solar panels accessible to everyone and as such, we get a lot of questions such as “how does solar work?”, “what are solar panels made of?”, and “how is solar energy generated?”. Before making the switch to solar, we think it’s important that you understand a little more about the process and the benefits.

How Solar Energy Works

Solar energy is one of the world’s cleanest and most sustainable forms of energy, but how does solar power work? Whether described as solar power or solar energy, how it works is the same. Sunlight is harnessed and converted into usable energy through the use of solar panels, so that we can power all electrical items that we use in the home. Sunlight is nothing more than electromagnetic radiation, or energy, grouped into photons. When solar panels capture this energy, they convert it into electricity, giving you and your family the chance to become energy independent.

how do solar panels work

How are Solar Panels Made?

The vast majority of solar panels available on the market are called photovoltaic (PV) panels, with “photo” meaning light, and “voltaic” meaning electricity. These solar panels, or modules, are made using a thin glass casing and a metal frame that houses wiring and a number of layers of positive and negative silicon cells. These silicon cells are generally made from monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon. The most notable differences between the two are the solar cell efficiency ratings and cost. The former is slightly more efficient and, as you would expect, more expensive. Silicon is not classed as a metal but it does have conductive properties which allow it to absorb sunlight and set electrons into motion, thereby initiating a flow of electrical current. This process is known as the photovoltaic effect.

As well as the silicon, each panel type incorporates a layer of anti-reflective coating, so that the solar cells can absorb as much sunlight as possible rather than reflect it. Conductive wiring is attached to both sides of the silicon cells to harness the electricity created (although not too much on the topside, as the sunlight still needs to be able to get through) and is then attached to the panel and delivered to an inverter. This is what converts it into usable electricity.

How do Solar Panels Work – Step by Step

  1. The solar panel absorbs sunlight via photovoltaic (or solar) cells. 
  2. The solar cells create direct current (DC) electricity from the photons. 
  3. The solar panel collects and combines this DC energy and delivers it to the solar inverter, which then converts it into a more user-friendly alternating current (AC) energy. 
  4. The inverter feeds the AC electricity into your home’s electrical panel, powering your lights and household appliances as and when needed. 
  5. Excess energy is fed back to the electricity grid. 
how do solar panels work

How Do We Use Solar Energy in Our Home?

If you’re wondering how you can start using solar energy in your home, investing in the future of your family and the planet, then we’d love for you to give us a call. The first thing we’ll need to do is assess the feasibility of installing panels on your property. Various factors will be taken into consideration such as which direction your roof faces, any other open spaces that aren’t obstructed by trees or other buildings, and our findings will affect the type and amount of panels that we recommend you have installed. 

How Much Power Does One Solar Panel Generate?

The amount of power that one solar panel can generate will vary depending on three things. The size of the panel, the amount of sunlight it’s exposed to, and the type of solar cell in your panel (monocrystalline is slightly more efficient than polycrystalline under peak conditions). The quality of the solar panel that is installed for home use will generally be rated somewhere between 290 and 360Wh, with the average being around 320 watts.

If you multiply the 320 watts by the number of hours of sunlight per day (homes in the United States receive, on average, four hours of “full sun” per day), that gives you 1.2kWh per day. Multiply this number by 30 and that will give you the average amount of power that one solar panel can generate for you and your family in a month (approx 38kWh). Regardless of how many solar panels you have installed, your investment will save you money on utilities every single year moving forward, often paying for itself time and time again.

how do solar panels work

Energy Independence for All

Believe it or not but the first solar panel was invented back in 1883. Unfortunately, it’s taken a long time for the technology to become financially viable for all of us. The good news is that solar panels are now much more affordable than most people think and the industry in the U.S. is booming. At Material Solar, we believe everyone has the right to energy independence, so feel free to call us and find out how easy it is to take the next steps. Together we can help create a brighter future for our planet and our familias, using clean and sustainable energy. Investing in solar energy now will not only provide energy independence for you and your children, but for many more generations to come.