How do Solar Panels Work?

How do Solar Panels Work?

As more people start to go solar, you might start wondering, how do solar panels work? What causes these rectangular, window-looking objects to take in the sun’s light and turn it into energy for use in your home? One hundred years ago, this technology did not even exist, but now anyone can purchase a system for their own home. Solar panels are great for numerous reasons. The largest being energy independence. When you create your own energy using solar panels, you become independent of standard energy that is produced using coal and other forms of dirty energy.

Solar energy panel and idea light bulb shaking hands

With energy independence from going solar, you now will not have to pay an electric bill anymore, another major reason more people are installing solar on their homes. For those who drive electric vehicles, a great added benefit of going solar is not having to pay for gas as you now produce your own energy for your car through the solar panels on your roof. How do solar panels work though?

Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels are actually comprised of many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic simply means they convert sunlight into electricity. Many photovoltaic cells linked together make up a solar panel. Each photovoltaic cell is basically a sandwich made up of two slices of semi-conducting material, usually silicon.

To work, photovoltaic cells need to establish an electric field. To get this field, manufacturers seed phosphorous into the top layer of silicon, which adds extra electrons with a negative charge to that layer of silicon. At the same time, the bottom layer gets a dose of boron, which results in fewer electrons, or a positive charge. This all adds up to an electric field at the junction between the silicon layers. Then, when a photon of sunlight knocks an electron free, the electric field will push that electron out of the silicon junction.

As this happens, a couple of other components of the cell turn these electrons into usable power. Such components are metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell that collect the electrons and transfer them to wires. At that point, the electrons can flow like any other source of electricity, and can ultimately be used to power your home.

Solar panels are not as complex as you might think. They work well and efficiently to create clean energy to be used in your home, and require very little maintenance once installed. Going solar is not nearly as difficult as it was twenty years ago, and with the proper knowledge of how solar panels work it is as easy as ever.


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