How Do Solar Panels Work?

As more of us become aware of the issues created through the use of fossil fuels, namely climate change, investment in solar panels is increasing.

People like solar panels because not only do they allow them to live more sustainably, they can also save money and even increase the value of your home. So, how do they work?

How do solar panels generate electricity?

Solar panels are another name for photovoltaic (PV) panels. PV panels are usually placed on the roof of the home, where there is the best access to sunlight. The panel will absorb the sunlight, and convert it into DC electricity.

It does this through the use of semiconductors. PV panels are made up of semiconductors (most often silicon), which creates a flow of electric current when it interacts with sunlight. This flow of electricity is the DC current.

The problem is, most of the appliances in your home will use an AC current. That’s why your solar panel set-up will also come complete with an inverter, which is there to convert the current from DC to AC and allows the electricity generated by the panels to be used in your home. 

Solar panels can generate electricity as long as there is sunlight. They don’t work at night, but they can work on cloudy days. They work at their best on clear and sunny days, which is why they have been so popular in places with good weather such as California. 

What happens if I don’t use the electricity generated?

As you might expect, the time of day when solar panels produce the most energy is in the afternoon. So, what if you’re not around to use the energy produced at that time?

Electricity can’t be stored without a battery (we’ll talk more about that in a moment), so if the energy isn’t immediately used in your home it will be transferred back to the grid. As part of your solar panel set-up, there will be a device that measures how much energy you are sending back to the grid. By using net metering, you will receive credit on your utility bill according to the amount of energy you have generated.

When looking at solar panel costs, it’s important to take into account how much energy is likely to be generated, based on your location in the country and the positioning of your roof. Your solar panel provider will be able to help you with this.

What is the future of solar energy?

Solar panels are popular, but not every home has one yet. This is typical of most new technologies, as people are generally reticent about trying out a new concept or product until they have good evidence that it will be valuable to them.

It’s predicted that most homes will eventually have solar power as the technology becomes cheaper, and as the batteries required for home energy storage are developed. These are in development by companies such as Tesla, which will allow homeowners to use all of the power that they generate without having to send any back to the grid. This is exciting news because it will allow people to be completely self-sufficient when it comes to power, and in areas where there are frequent power outages families won’t be impacted as much.