How Do Solar Panels Work? The Science Explained

how do solar panels work

Did you know there are over 3 million solar panel installations across different markets in the US? Solar panels are a great way to save money on your electric bill and reduce your carbon footprint. 

But how do solar panels work? The science behind the solar panel isn’t complicated as it sounds.

In this article, we’ll walk you through solar panel technology and how solar panels work.

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the sun. 

Solar energy is a free, clean, and abundant form of energy. It can be easily harnessed by using solar power panels that convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. 

It doesn’t emit greenhouse gases or pollutants into the environment. Solar power plants are increasingly built worldwide to meet the rising electricity demand.

Though sunlight varies depending on different factors, it provides an average of a 1-kilowatt hour (kWh) every square meter every day. This undiminished amount of sunlight makes it one of the most dependable sources of renewable energy. 

Countries are increasingly looking to alternatives like solar power with increasing concerns over non-renewable resources like petrol and coal.

Fossil fuels lead to environmental hazards such as global warming, air, water, and soil pollution.

What Are Solar Panels Made of?

Solar panels comprise different materials depending on the manufacturer and design. They comprise three key components: solar cells, wiring, and an aluminum frame for support. 

The cells consist mostly of silicone, which creates an electric current when light hits its surface. This makes electrons move through wires which connect all the solar cells into modules. 

The end result is a group of solar panels hooked up to an inverter, creating AC power or alternating current. This type of power is used in your home, whereas DC power is used for cars and machinery.

How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?

Solar panels collect sunlight using photovoltaic cells. When sunlight hits the cell, it generates electricity by moving electrons through the material to produce direct current electricity (DC). It can be used immediately or stored chemically in batteries for later use. 

But did you know you can use solar power energy on your appliances? An inverter changes the DC into usable AC electricity that can run appliances inside of your house.

What Does a Solar Inverter Do?

A solar inverter is used with solar panels to convert the direct current electricity generated by the photovoltaic cells to alternating current. An AC electric current can be used immediately, whereas DC power must first be converted. 

The inverter then sends this converted power out to your home or grid via a series of wires and connectors. This allows for immediate use of the electricity generated by the solar energy system.

The Solar Panel Science Behind PV Cells

Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are composed of silicon semiconductors that produce an electrical charge when exposed to sunlight. Photons, or particles of light, collide with the silicon atoms within the PV cell and knock electrons loose from their specific location within the atom’s shell. 

The electrons can then flow freely through the cell material as an electric current.

How Does Weather Affect Solar Energy?

The amount of sunlight collected by a solar panel can be affected by many external factors. Temperature, humidity, dust, smog, and cloud cover are elements that can affect how much energy a solar panel can absorb. 

With variability in weather conditions, solar panels perform better in some climates over others.

Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

Solar panels generate electricity from the sun, which doesn’t follow a regular schedule or pattern. This way, most people are under the wrong impression that they won’t receive electricity if it’s overcast or cloudy. 

Cloudy conditions reduce the intensity of sunlight hitting solar panels, reducing its performance by 9% per cloud cover degree with the ideal temperature being 25°C (77°F). However, the opposite is true during the winter months.

The seven hours of obscured sunlight can produce up to 90% of full energy output, depending on the weather.

As long as there’s a little sunlight reaching the panel, it’ll generate some power even if it’s overcast. The production won’t be as high. On average, about half the light that would hit the panel in full sun will reach the panel when it is overcast.

Does it Need to be Hot for Solar Panels to Work?

Solar cells don’t need high temperatures to produce power. While they may produce more power during hotter periods, they’ll operate well in cooler temperatures. 

Solar energy is used every day in applications from passive heating systems like swimming pool covers. These applications get power through photovoltaic arrays that provide electricity directly or indirectly from sunlight. 

A meter of snow cover can reduce annual PV output by about 25%.

How Do We Know if Solar Panels Are Hot?

Solar panels produce maximum power when exposed to direct sunlight and become less efficient as they heat up during operation. The temperature at which photovoltaic cells work optimally is 25°C (77°F). 

Their temperature reduces by 2% for every 1°C rise above optimum temperature. Since solar cells can only produce electricity and not absorb heat, keep the solar modules cool for optimum power generation.

Advantages of Installing Solar Panels in Your Home

Solar panels are the best electrical energy option for virtually any home. They offer immense benefits like reduced electric bills, lower carbon footprint, and a great investment return. Here are more solar panel facts and advantages that you should know:

Saves Up to 50 Percent on Energy Bills

By installing a photovoltaic system at your home, you’ll reduce up to 50 percent on your annual electricity bills. Some states allow people with solar panel systems to sell back the extra electricity they generate into the main grid. 

Apart from saving money, it also takes care of the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming.

When you use solar panels, there’s no need for you to buy expensive backup generators. The sun gives you all the power that your home needs. Instead of spending on backup systems, invest the money in more solar panels for your home.

There are no moving parts to wear out or use precious resources like fossil fuels. The cost of installation is also minimal, and most manufacturers offer free consultation services. They also provide an easy financing option, which makes it affordable for homeowners.

Eco-Friendly Home

Another reason why more people are using solar panels is that it does not pollute the environment. As mentioned earlier, the sun’s energy is clean and renewable. 

When you install the system, you’ll be doing your share in saving mother earth from greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants.

Besides, you’ll be protecting yourself and your loved ones against carbon dioxide-related illnesses like asthma and bronchitis.

Require Little Maintenance

Solar panel systems have few maintenance requirements. You don’t have to spend a vast sum of money maintaining them once installed on your roof or yard. 

You do not need any special skills to maintain them since they come with manuals on repairing and replacing faulty parts. With most panel systems, you can replace individual parts without the need to hire a technician. This helps save money in the long run.

Low-Risk Investment

Solar panel systems are low-risk investments. They need little maintenance practices and offer great payback within a few years after their purchase. Besides, they come with up to 25 years warranty.

A great solar panel system will pay itself back within 3 to 4 years.

Your Health

The amount of mercury present in a generator’s battery is so high. 

Once it leaks, the toxic substance will contaminate the soil and water around it. This can cause serious health problems for your family, especially if you have children playing outside or pets. They might ingest this poisonous chemical accidentally.

Solar panel owners typically experience no adverse health effects from exposure to solar radiation during normal use of solar panels. Yet, you must ensure exposure levels are no greater than recommended limits. 

Ask your installation company to install low-cost shielding materials on surfaces exposed to sunlight. This way, it’ll reduce human exposure to solar power systems.

How Long Does it Take to Install Solar Panels in a Home?

It takes about four to five days to install solar panels in a home after an assessment by a technician. These technicians identify potential issues before installation. 

The process also involves removing old electric meters and wiring. Thus, don’t expect to see your electricity bills drop immediately after installation. There are other procedures required before you can start using solar power. 

How Do Solar Panels Work? A Guide

If you’re a homeowner who has been wondering how do solar panels work or don’t know solar panel facts, it’s time to install one in your home. At West Bay Energy, we do all types of solar installations at affordable costs.

Are you worried about install costs or think you can’t afford the complete system? Before you dismiss this idea, get a no-obligation quote from our experts or call us to get a quote.