Solar Panels: How They Work

Solar power.  Once a rarely used term, solar power has been injected into the American lexicon and consciousness.  It is an amazing time for Florida solar, and the future looks even brighter.  Chances are, you’ve seen a solar system, perhaps in your own neighborhood.  And, chances are you may have inquired as to how solar panels actually work.
Solar panels are often considered the “heart” of the solar system.  They are comprised of modules, as modules are composed of cells.  From the manufacturing process to power generation, solar panels are amazing pieces of information in their own right.  Or perhaps it is better said they are amazing pieces of information in their own light.
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Many Florida beaches contain silicon, solar’s building block
A good stroll up and down Florida’s world-renowned beaches may reveal the key to making it all happen:  sand.  Well, more specifically, silica or silicon dioxide, commonly in a form known as silicon.  Depending on how the silicon is utilized, most panels in residential and commercial installations are either monocrystalline or multicrystalline (we’ll cover both crystalline types as well as other types of panels in a future blog).
A solar cell is chiefly comprised of silicon, conductive metals, glass, and wiring components.  Two elements, phosphorous and boron, are generally combined with silicon in the manufacturing of the solar cell.  A process known as doping occurs when boron and phosphorous are combined with silicon to generate electron flow.  This electron flow is created when the sun hits the panels, producing the photovoltaic effect, enabling the solar cell to become a semiconductor.  At this point, the sun hitting the panels generates direct current (DC) power.
“The photovoltaic effect is a process that generates voltage or electric current in a photovoltaic cell when it is exposed to sunlight. It is this effect that makes solar panels useful, as it is how the cells within the panel convert sunlight to electrical energy. The photovoltaic effect was first discovered in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel. When doing experiments involving wet cells, he noted that the voltage of the cell increased when its silver plates were exposed to the sunlight.”
G. Boyle. Renewable Energy: Power for a Sustainable Future, 2nd ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004.
As solar cells become semiconductors, they need something to convert the DC to alternating current (AC) power.  That something is an inverter.  The two main types of inverters are string inverters and microinverters.  Each panel is connected to a string or microinverter.  Inverters connect to the electrical panel and AC power is distributed in the residence.
And presto! the panels have done their job=receive sunlight and distribute it as DC power.  Although solar panels may be comprised of different features and specifications such as size, current, voltage, and maximum power point, their job is the same.  From sand to rooftop array, from manufacturing to DC generation, solar panels are indeed fascinating.
As Florida solar becomes more visible and bankable, shedding light on solar panels and how they work hopefully brightens your solar acumen. We’ve included a quick chart animation that outlines how solar panels work, provided courtesy  SaveOnEnergy.com (using Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) as their source).  Solar panels, the heartbeat of Florida solar, beating with more power everyday.

How solar panels work

 

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1934432_1530422373920628_7435680489633132710_nNeed more information on going green and ready to take the next step? We are here for you at Bay Area Solar Solutions LLC, where your solar needs come first!



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