How Do Solar Panels Work?

by | Apr 30, 2024

how-do-solar-panels-work

Have you ever wondered how solar panels turn sunlight into electricity? It’s actually a process called photovoltaic conversion. 

Simply put, solar panels are made up of silicon cells. When sunlight hits these cells, it starts an electrical phenomenon that generates direct current (DC) electricity. This energy is then converted into alternating current (AC), which powers our homes and businesses. 

Today, in this blog, we will provide a detailed overview of solar panels’ process behind turning sunlight into energy. So, let’s get started!

How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?

Solar panels generate electricity by using photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electrical energy. These cells are made of materials, such as silicon, which can absorb photons from sunlight and release electrons to create a flow of electricity.

This direct current (DC) is then converted into alternating current (AC) through an inverter, making it suitable for powering homes and businesses.

Photovoltaic cells

Photovoltaic cells are the heart of a solar panel. They turn sunlight into electricity. They are also known as “PV cells.” Each PV cell is like a sandwich made out of two slices of semiconducting material, usually silicon.

The top layer gets loaded with some extra electrons. When sunlight hits these electrons, it gives them the energy to move. This movement creates an electric current that we can use in our homes.

Single-string inverter

A single-string inverter is an important component of a solar power system. It converts the direct-current (DC) electricity generated by the photovoltaic cells in solar panels into alternating-current (AC) electricity that can be used to power our homes and appliances.

The inverter takes the DC electricity produced by multiple solar panels connected together in a series, known as a string, and changes it into AC electricity for use on our electrical grid.

This conversion process allows us to make the most of the clean energy generated by our solar panels and use it to meet our daily energy needs.

Hybrid inverter

Hybrid inverters are an important part of solar power systems. They help convert the direct-current (DC) electricity produced by your solar panels into usable alternating-current (AC) electricity for your household appliances.

But what makes hybrid inverters special is that they have a built-in battery storage system. This means that any excess electricity generated during the day can be stored in the batteries and used at night when there isn’t enough sunlight to generate power.

It’s a great way to make sure you always have electricity, even when the sun isn’t shining!

What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?

types-of-solar-panels
types-of-solar-panels

There are three main types of solar panels: thin-film panels, monocrystalline panels, and polycrystalline panels.

Thin film panels

Thin-film panels are one of the different types of solar panels available. They are made by depositing a thin layer of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, such as glass or metal.

These panels are lightweight and flexible, making them easier to install on various surfaces. Thin-film panels can also perform better in low-light conditions compared to other types of solar panels.

However, they generally have lower efficiency levels than monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels, which means they may require more space to generate the same amount of electricity.

Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline panels are one of the types of solar panels commonly used in homes. They are made from a single crystal structure, which gives them a uniform appearance. Monocrystalline panels have a high efficiency rate, meaning they can convert more sunlight into electricity compared to other panel types.

This is because the single-crystal structure allows for better electron flow and conductivity. So, even on cloudy days or when there’s less sunlight available, monocrystalline panels can still generate electricity.

These panels are also durable and long-lasting, with an average lifespan of around 25 to 30 years. However, they can be more expensive than other panel options, such as polycrystalline or thin film panels.

Polycrystalline panels

Polycrystalline panels are another type of solar panel that you can use to generate electricity. These panels are made up of multiple silicon crystals, which give them their unique blue colour.

When sunlight hits the polycrystalline panel, the silicon cells inside capture the energy from the photons in the sunlight and convert it into electrical energy. This electrical energy is then sent to an inverter, which converts it from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), making it usable for your home’s appliances and electronics.

Polycrystalline panels are known for being less expensive than monocrystalline panels but slightly less efficient. However, they still provide a great source of clean and renewable energy for your home.

What Are the Advantages of Solar Power?

advantages-of-solar-panels
advantages-of-solar-panels

Solar power is a clean and renewable energy source that offers various advantages, such as clean energy, a longer lifespan, government incentives, and low maintenance costs. So, let’s look into each of these benefits of solar power in a bit more detail:

Clean and renewable energy

Solar panels provide clean and renewable energy by using the power of sunlight. They work by using photovoltaic cells made of special materials, such as silicon, to convert sunlight into electricity.

When photons from the sun’s rays hit the surface of these cells, they knock loose electrons, creating an electrical current. This direct current (DC) flows through wires to an inverter, which converts it into alternating current (AC) that can be used to power our homes and appliances.

This process of electricity generation is entirely sustainable and does not produce any harmful emissions of pollutants like traditional fossil fuels do. Solar panels offer a way for Irish homeowners to generate their own electricity while reducing their environmental impact at the same time.

Government incentives

The government offers incentives to encourage the use of solar panels in homes. These incentives can help you save money and make solar power more affordable. One incentive is a grant that provides financial assistance for installing solar panels.

This can help offset the upfront costs associated with purchasing and installing the panels. Another incentive is a feed-in tariff, which allows homeowners to earn money by selling excess electricity generated by their solar panels back to the grid.

The government also offers tax credits or deductions for those who install solar panels, providing further financial benefits. Taking advantage of these government incentives can make going solar a smart choice for homeowners in Ireland.

Cost and maintenance

Solar panels require an initial investment, but the long-term benefits outweigh the costs. In terms of maintenance, they are relatively low-maintenance as there are no moving parts to worry about.

The main cost is the installation itself, which can vary depending on factors such as the size of your solar system and any additional equipment needed. However, there are government incentives available that can help offset these costs.

It’s also important to keep in mind that solar panels have a long lifespan, typically around 25–30 years or more, so you won’t have to worry about replacing them frequently.

Conclusion

We’ve explored that solar panels utilise the power of the sun and convert it into electricity through a process called photovoltaic conversion. This technology not only powers our homes and businesses but also plays a crucial role in our journey towards sustainable energy solutions. 

By using silicon cells, solar panels capture sunlight and create an electric flow that’s converted into usable energy. Whether it’s day or night, this system ensures we have a continuous power supply, making it an excellent investment for the future.

If you’re considering solar panels for your Irish home, it’s a great time to explore your options. Contact us today to find out how you can install solar panels and start reducing your energy bills and carbon footprint.

FAQs

How do solar panels convert sunlight into electricity?

Solar panels use photovoltaic (PV) cells made of semiconductor materials like silicon. When sunlight strikes these cells, it excites electrons, creating a flow of electric current. This DC electricity can then be converted into AC electricity for home or business use.

What happens to solar energy during cloudy or rainy days?

Solar panels can still generate electricity in overcast or rainy weather, though at a reduced efficiency. Modern panels are designed to capture diffuse sunlight, and any shortfall can be compensated with stored energy from battery storage systems or grid power.

How efficient are solar panels at converting sunlight into electricity?

The efficiency of solar panels varies, generally ranging from 15% to 22%. Advances in technology and materials continue to improve conversion efficiency, allowing panels to generate more electricity from the same amount of sunlight.

How long do solar panels last?

Most solar panels have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years. Their efficiency may gradually decrease over time, but many come with warranties guaranteeing 80% or more output after 25 years.

How are solar panels installed and connected?

Solar panels are mounted on rooftops or on ground-based racks. They are connected to an inverter that converts the DC electricity generated into AC electricity, which can then be used in the home, fed back into the grid, or stored in batteries.

Can solar panels power an entire house?

Yes, depending on the energy needs of the house and the system’s size. A properly sized solar panel system, combined with energy storage solutions, can meet or exceed the electricity requirements of a typical household.

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