What Do Solar Panels Do?

What do solar panels do? You know that solar panels absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into electrical power. But how exactly do solar panels achieve this? What materials are required in a solar panel? To help you better understand just what solar panels do, Atlasta Solar examines just what solar panels are and how they work.

What is Solar Energy?

Our Sun is a powerful star that constantly emits energy via nuclear fusion. This energy is known as solar radiation or electromagnetic radiation. This energy is in the form of light and consists of particles of energy called photons. The amount of solar radiation that hits the earth varies from place to place.

How Is Solar Energy Captured?

Humanity has long since known about the power of the sun. For example, several ancient civilizations used sunlight to spark fires with mirrors or glass. However, it wouldn’t be until the 19th century that scientists discovered and began using the photovoltaic effect. Also known as the PV effect, the photovoltaic effect is the process that most solar panels use to generate energy. Solar panels that use this process are referred to as photovoltaic panels, or PV panels.

Photovoltaic Effect 101

The photovoltaic effect directly converts sunlight into electricity. This is achieved when sunlight shines onto a conductive material, causing electrons to “dance” and create electrical charges, or a current of electricity.

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How Do PV Panels Absorb Sunlight?

The materials that make up photovoltaic panels help achieve the photovoltaic process.

Solar Cells

Photovoltaic panels contain solar cells, or photovoltaic cells, which absorb sunlight. These cells require a semiconductor, or a material that conducts electricity only when energy is provided (such as solar radiation.) Silicon is the main semiconductor in solar panels (and most electronics). Silicon is a dark gray crystal (specifically, a metalloid.) In PV panels silicon is in the form of thin silicon wafers, and is the semiconductor for 95% of PV panels.

Solar cells also contain phosphorus and boron. Phosphorus provides a negative charge, while boron provides a positive charge. PV panels absorb the photons or energy particles within sunlight. This initiates an electric current, which is a result of photons knocking and displacing electrons, with these electrons now free to flow into a directional current.

Collecting the Current

The energy generated by solar panels needs to be collected. The electrical current flows to the panel’s edge and into a conductive wire, which leads to the inverter. This is the component that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) power. The inverter is usually located  “”.

After the inverter converts the energy into usable electricity, the current flows to the electric panel, also known as the breaker box. This component directs the current to the appliances within the building using electricity.

How Solar Energy is Measured

Electricity is measured in units called watts. A kilowatt consists of one thousand watts, and when you use one thousand watts of electricity in an hour, this is a measurement called kilowatt-hours (kWh). You’ll note that kWh is the measurement used on utility bills.

Regarding solar systems, kWh refers to the amount of energy produced by a panel. For example, a 2kW system produces about 2,000 kWH of electricity annually in cloudier areas; this would be nearly double in sunnier regions.

Supplying Your Power Needs

Most homes have plenty of roof space for the required amount of solar panels to generate enough energy for your home. At Atlasta Solar we calculate how many panels your home or business needs, based on your power requirements (for example, what kind and how many appliances you have.)

Storing Solar Energy

Is it possible to store energy generated by PV panels? The answer is yes. Solar energy can be stored for later use within an energy bank. Most solar energy is usually stored in lithium-ion or lead-ion batteries, with the power lasting an average of one to five days.

What Do Solar Panels Do

Benefits of Solar Power

Solar systems have several advantages:

Clean, Renewable Energy

One of the main advantages of solar power is that it is clean, renewable energy. The source of the energy (the sun) is free and provides constant solar radiation. Solar power also does not produce any emissions, unlike fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide and other harmful gases.

Reduces Electricity Bills

Using solar power at home or at your business can help lower your electricity bills. The amount saved will vary depending on where you live and what kind of solar system you have.

Low Maintenance Costs

Solar panels are relatively easy to maintain and clean. The inclination, or tilt, of solar panels helps keep off most dust and debris. Do clean your solar panels whenever they are dirty, or whenever you notice that their energy output is lower than normal. Helpful tip: review your energy bills before and after cleaning the panels. This can help you gauge how well your solar panels operate after cleaning.

Increase Home Value

A solar system can increase the value of your home. Given that solar power is renewable energy and saves money on electricity costs, solar panels can increase your property’s appeal.

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Systems: Another Way to Capture Solar Energy

Another solar technology is concentrating solar-thermal power, or CSP systems. This system uses mirrors to reflect and focus solar radiation onto receivers, which collect and convert sunlight into heat; this energy can then be used or stored for later. CSP systems are used more often for large power plants than for residential use.

Interested in Solar Energy? Atlasta Solar is Here to Help

If you’re interested in solar energy for your property or business, Atlasta Solar will help you find the best solar setup for your needs. We love educating others all about solar systems and how they benefit both you and the environment. We offer residential, commercial, and off-grid solar energy; to learn more about us and what we do, contact us at 970-248-0057. Let the Colorado sun power your home!

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