Solar Energy: What It Is and How Solar Panels Work
To power your home or business, solar panels capture sunlight and turn it into electricity.
Our sun – a giant glowing ball (for dummies) or natural nuclear reactor (for geeks) – releases photons. These tiny packets of energy travel millions of miles, from the sun to the earth, in minutes. Each hour, ample photons hit our planet to generate sufficient solar to satisfy global, annual energy needs.
As solar technology improves and solar costs drop, we’re able to fully harness the sun’s abundant energy.
Indeed, solar is one of the world’s fastest-growing power sources. Its growth has even surpassed that of fossil fuels. A few years from now, everyone is likely to enjoy the benefits of solar electricity – in one way or another.
How Solar Panels Work
When photons hit solar cells, they dislodge electrons from their atoms. Electrons generate electricity when they flow through an electrical circuit, which is formed by attaching conductors to the negative and positive sides of a cell. Multiple cells form a solar panel. And multiple panels (modules) make up a solar array when wired together. The more panels you’re able to deploy, the more energy you’re likely to produce.
What Solar Panels are Made of
Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels feature many solar cells. Like semiconductors, solar cells are silicon-made. And, just like in a battery, they’re built with a negative and positive layer, which together form an electric field.
How Solar Panels Generate Electricity
PV solar panels produce direct current (DC). With DC electricity, the flow of electrons in a circuit is in one direction. The journey begins from the battery’s negative side and ends at the battery’s positive side.
With alternative current (AC), there’s a push and pull of electrons in reverse direction, much like a car’s engine cylinder. Generators generate AC electricity when, next to the magnet, a coil of wire is spun. Many energy sources can power a generator, including diesel, wind, solar, nuclear and water.
AC electricity is suitable for power grids because transmitting it over long distances is less expensive. Because solar panels on the Gold Coast generate DC electricity, we use an inverter to turn DC into AC.https://web.archive.org/web/20180525113203if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/xKxrkht7CpY
What a Solar Inverter Does
Simply put, a solar inverter creates AC electricity from DC electricity. Besides converting DC into AC power, inverters, the brains of the system, provide system stats and ground fault protection.
From the onset, central inverters have ruled the solar industry. The introduction of micro-inverters has revolutionized the PV industry. Micro-inverters, unlike central inverters, optimise for each individual panel – not for the whole system.
How a Solar Panel System Works
First, sunlight hits solar panels on the rooftop. The panels turn the energy into DC current. This current flows to the inverter, which converts it into AC. AC electricity, the final product, powers your residential or commercial building.
Through a system known as “net-metering”, there’s no energy wastage. Surplus energy, produced during the peak daylight hours, is fed back into the mains grid for use elsewhere. For the production of the excess energy, the customer gets tax credits.