How Do Solar Panels Generate Energy?

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One day last summer, I got a letter in the mail that blew me away. It was a bill from my power company, and I couldn't believe how much power it said that we had used. I didn't know what to do, but I knew that we had to do something. That day, we made the decision as a family to reduce our carbon footprint by using less power. We started turning off the television when it wasn't in use, switching off lights, and eliminating extra plugged in appliances. It seemed like a big sacrifice at first, but after awhile we started to realize that it was going to make things a lot better. Check out this blog for ideas on how you can use energy more effectively.

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How Do Solar Panels Generate Energy?

10 October 2016
 Categories: , Blog


An increasing number of homeowners are adding solar arrays to their property to increase their sustainability and reduce their overall energy expenses. While most homeowners understand that solar panels rely on sunlight to generate power, fewer homeowners understand the process. 

Solar panels generate new energy through photovoltaic conversion. 

Photovoltaic Conversion

At the most basic level, photovoltaic conversion simply means that a solar panel changes sunlight into measurable energy, or voltage. To facilitate this process, each solar panel contains several solar cells.

A solar cell consists of one to three layers of a semiconductor material like silicon. Semiconductor material's molecules move under specific circumstances, but these molecules cannot leave the confines of the material. 

When sunlight contacts the semiconductor material in a solar cell, the photons contained in the light agitate the electrons in the material, dislodging the electrons from their natural static position. When agitated, the electrons begin to move back and forth in the semiconductor material, generating an electrical current. Because the electrons cannot escape the semiconductor material, they can be manipulated to move rapidly from one end of the solar cell to the other to create a steady amount of power. 

In addition to the primary semiconductor, manufacturers add other chemical compounds to encourage the right molecule movement. For example, a manufacturer may seed the bottom semiconductor sheet with boron. Because boron has a positive charge, it redirects any free electrons back up toward the sunlight to increase the level of agitation that occurs. 

Solar Arrays

Multiple solar panels placed together to receive optimal sunlight exposure are known as a solar array. Solar energy providers design and position these arrays so that sunlight hits the panels directly for as much time as possible throughout the day. This positioning maximizes the amount of energy an array can provide.

Once a panel begins to generate energy, the power goes into an inverter. The inverter converts solar energy from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Most buildings in the United States are only compatible with AC power so this conversion is an essential step in making the new solar energy usable.

The energy generated by solar panels can either go into direct use or be stored for use during dark hours. 

Want to make your property more energy efficient? Use this knowledge and the recommendations of your provider to make informed decisions about the number of panels you use and where you place them. For more information, contact a solar energy company.