Once considered an exotic luxury for fancy homes in well-to-do neighborhoods, solar panels have hit the mainstream thanks to plummeting costs and major advances in technology and efficiency.
With high power costs and the climate crisis, more and more people are turning to sustainable energy to do their part to protect the planet while cutting down on their utility bills at the same time. A Pew Research Center survey found that 46% of Americans want to save energy and are seriously considering making the switch to a sustainable energy source.
Currently, only 6% of households in the U.S. have had solar panel installation but that number is expected to quadruple by 2030. All this talk about renewable energy begs the question, how do solar panels work? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn the science behind this neat energy source.
Sustainable Energy: How Do Solar Panels Work?
Simply put, when you have solar panels installed by a company like Blue Raven Solar, they create electricity when sunlight particles remove electrons from atoms. This sets in motion an electron flow, which is known as electricity. Solar panels are designed to capture it and turn it into an electric current.
Photovoltaic cells in solar panels absorb sunlight and create direct current (DC), which is then converted to usable alternating current energy (AC) with the aid of inverter technology. AC energy flows through the electrical panel of the home and is then distributed according to its direction
- Photovoltaic cells capture the sun’s energy and convert it into DC electricity
- Solar inverters convert DC electricity from solar modules into AC electricity that is used by household appliances.
- Your home is powered by electricity.
- The electric grid is fed excess electricity from solar panels
How Do the Panels Produce Electricity?
A standard solar panel is made up of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass case, and wiring that is used to allow current to flow from silicon cells. Silicon is a nonmetal that has conductive properties that enable it to absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity.
The interaction of light with silicon cells causes electrons to move, which in turn initiates an electric current. This is called the photovoltaic effect which is the main functionality of solar panel technology.
The Photovoltaic Process
- The silicon photovoltaic cell absorbs the sun’s radiation
- The sun’s rays hit the silicon cell and electrons start to move. This creates an electric current.
- The wires collect and feed the direct current (DC) electricity to a solar inverter and convert it to alternating current electricity (AC).
How Do Solar Panels Work With the Power Grid?
Although electricity generation using solar panels may seem intuitive to most people there is still much confusion over how the grid affects the home solar process. Every home connected to the electric grid will have a utility meter. This is used by your energy provider to measure and provide power to your home.
Your home’s utility meter will be connected to your solar structure when you have solar panels installed on your roof or ground mount, and the meter can also be used to measure and access the production of your solar system.
Start Saving Money Today
Aside from being a great way to reduce your environmental footprint, solar panels are also a wonderful way to save money. Although there are costs upfront, over time, the savings are substantial. If you live in the United States, you can expect to save between $15-40k over a twenty-year period.
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