By now, most people understand the basic process of how solar power works. It’s easy to understand that solar panel systems generate energy from sunlight and convert it into electricity that we can use to power our homes, but how exactly does that happen? If you’re like us, you want to understand the science behind it all, and we’re happy to explain.
When you look at a solar panel, you’ll notice that it’s actually made up of a grid of small squares called photovoltaic cells (photovoltaic means they convert sunlight into solar energy). Each cell is essentially a sandwich of conducting material, usually silicon. An electric field is required for the process to work, so each side of the sandwich is “doped” with other materials to give each side of the sandwich a positive or negative charge.
The top layer is doped with phosphorus, which has extra electrons and gives it a negative charge. Boron is added to the bottom layer, making it positive with fewer electrons. This creates an electric field (the meat of the sandwich) between the two layers of silicon. The fragile cells are then encased by glass, which protects them from damage.
Generating Solar Energy
Once the photovoltaic cells are charged, they’re ready to begin the solar energy process. The energy is generated when a photon, or a particle of light, knocks an electron free from its atom in the silicon layer. The electron is thrown into the electric field, which pushes it out of the space between the layers. Metal conductor plates carry the electricity away from the panels for the next part of the process.
Converting the Current
Once the solar panels generate the electric current, the process isn’t finished yet. The panels generate Direct Current (DC), which isn’t the type of current most commonly used. After leaving the solar panels, the electricity flows to an inverter, which converts the DC to Alternate Current (AC), the kind of electric current our homes and electric appliances are made to work with. The electricity is now ready for use, traveling out of the solar panel system and into the home to power lights, appliances, TVs and more.
While they’re still the most popular, glass solar panels aren’t the only way to generate solar energy anymore. Solar shingles are a new option, making the entire roof of a home generate solar energy. Recently, ultra-flexible solar cells that are a fraction of the width of a strand of hair have been produced that are about as effective as glass solar panels. In the future, this solar technology can be integrated into wearable devices, architecture and aerospace technology!
For now, though, glass solar panel installation is the best, most affordable option for your home’s solar power system. Contact Solar Fix today to learn more and begin the installation process.