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How Solar Panels Work: A Quick Guide

Not everybody is aware of just how common solar technology is. They still think of solar power as something that will eventually become common in the future. The truth is, the United States has already produced enough solar power capacity to provide for the needs of more than 12 million American households!

Of course, as solar panel technology becomes more common, people start to learn more about it. How exactly do solar panels work? How does energy from the sun get transformed into electrical energy that you can use for your home?

The governments of many countries allocate colossal amounts of budgetary funds, sponsoring projects aimed at developing solar power plants. Some cities make full use of electricity from the sun. It should be noted that the principle of operation of solar panels for the home is quite complex.

There are a lot of nuances and confusion in the subject of “solar energy.” It is often difficult for beginners to understand all unfamiliar terms at first. But without this, it is unreasonable to engage in solar energy, acquiring equipment for generating “solar” current.

Unknowingly, you can not only choose the wrong panel but also simply burn it when connected or extract too little energy from it.

First, you need to understand the existing types of equipment for solar energy. Solar panels and solar collectors are two fundamentally different devices. Both of them convert the energy of the sun’s rays.

However, the consumer receives electrical energy at the outlet in the first case. In the second, thermal energy in a heated coolant, i.e., solar panels, is used to heat the house.

Read on to learn all about how solar panels work!

What Exactly Are Solar Panels?

The full name for solar panels is actually photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are what allow solar panels to use sunlight to create electricity.

Some people think that solar panels work based on the heat of the sun. But actually, solar panels that stay cold will still produce electricity if they get sunlight. So how do they work?

One of the most important things to understand about electrical production is that moving electrons will create electricity. That is how generators work. They use a source of power, usually fossil fuel, to create a spinning object. By attaching magnets to that spinning object, they push electrons down a wire, creating electricity.

In the case of solar panels, magnetic fields are created by putting phosphorus into a layer of silicon. Then, boron is added to an adjacent layer in the photovoltaic cell.

If sunlight then strikes this cell, it knocks electrons free. Those electrons are then pushed out of the cell.

When you get down to it, moving electrons is what electricity actually is. Thus, this process creates electricity!

The phenomenon was discovered back in the 19th century and is called the photoelectric effect (photoelectric effect). For its occurrence and maintenance, photoelectric converters (photocells) and semiconductors are necessary by way of functioning.

A semiconductor is a material with an excess or lack of electrons. In a semiconductor element, there are two layers with different conductivity. A layer with extra electrons plays the role of a cathode, a layer with a lack of electrons – an anode. In most modern products, the role of semiconductors is played by silicon wafers, which have the necessary semiconducting properties.

When Solar Panels Appeared

Solar panels were invented a long time ago. The effect of converting light into electricity was first discovered by Alexander Edmond Becquerel in 1842. It took almost a hundred years to create the prototypes.

In 1948, namely on March 25, the Italian photochemist Giacomo Luigi Chemican could do what we now use and develop. In 1958, the technology was first tested in space as a power source for an American satellite called Avangard-1. The satellite was launched on March 17 and May 15 of the same year. Technologies began to be massively applied in different countries almost simultaneously.

How Can Solar Panels Become More Effective?

Most advances in solar technology come down to the ability to put more and more layers into a smaller space. More layers of phosphorus and boron mean more electricity created from the same amount of sunlight. Modern solar panels can save a household hundreds of dollars in electrical costs every year!

The more that you learn about solar panel benefits, the more you might be interested in your own solar panel installation. Talking through the solar panel guide with someone is a great way to find out if solar panels are the right choice for you. To learn more solar panel tips or to find a quality supplier of solar panels for your home.

Understand How Solar Panels Work

We hope that you were able to find some of the ideas in this article about how solar panels work to be helpful for you. As the most advanced version of solar technology continues to improve, solar technology will be a more and more common part of our lives. If you don’t learn about it now, you will still learn about it eventually.

Sooner or later, practically everybody will be benefiting from the advantages of solar technology in one way or another. Why not be one of the first people to do so rather than one of the last? To keep up-to-date on the latest developments in business, technology, and more, take a look through our other articles!

How to Calculate Solar Energy

In theory, to calculate the energy of a solar cell, you multiply the watts (of the solar panel) by the number of hours you have been in the sun. For example, if a 20W TV is turned on for two hours, its battery will require 20×2 = 40W per day.

In practice, this method does not work since there are many external factors, such as seasonal differences, climatic, etc.

The British organization, Solar Technology International, gives an example: on an average winter day in the UK, the period of sunshine is only one hour, on summer days – about six hours of sunshine. So, in winter, a 10-watt panel will supply 10-watt power back to the battery (10-watt x 1 = 10 watts). And in summer, a 10-watt panel will provide 60-watt power back to your battery (10-watt x 6 = 60 watts).

Solar cell manufacturing technologies and devices differ mainly in silicon deposition. Most systems use the following types of modules:

  • Polycrystalline type. A budget option for solar panels, suitable as an energy source for a country house. There is a mobile version that you can take on a trip or hike. The disadvantage of this technology is its relatively low (up to 18%) efficiency.
  • Monocrystalline silicon. The panels are more reliable in operation. They have a longer service life (up to 40-50 years), more stable work: they retain up to 70-80% of their capacity during operation. Monocrystalline panels demonstrate efficiency up to 22% (in series); those used in the space industry – up to 38%.

It is also possible to install the following devices:

  • Multicrystalline silicon. Multicrystalline silicon modules are easy to manufacture and have a more affordable cost. The efficiency reaches 15%, the service is designed for 25 years.
  • Thin-film batteries. They can function in diffused light (not direct sunlight), which is a plus in foggy climates or dusty air. This gives an additional 10-15% of the capacity per year (compared with traditional crystalline systems).
  • Amorphous silicon solar panels. The efficiency is low (6-8%), but the generated electricity is the cheapest.
  • Models based on CIGS (semiconductor). The semiconductor contains copper mixed with indium, gallium, and selenium. The production of the battery is based on film technology; the efficiency reaches 15%.
  • Batteries using cadmium tellluide (CdTe). Manufactured using film technology, they are distinguished by an ultrathin semiconductor layer. The efficiency does not exceed 11%, but the generated energy costs 20-30% less than silicon models.

Pros and Cons

The sun’s energy belongs to alternative, renewable sources; its use is considered a progressive method of energy consumption. Its benefits are described as follows:

  • Your monthly electricity bills go down (and ideally disappear). The amount of savings depends on the size of the installed system and the amount of consumption.
  • If the system is installed on your site, you do not need to obtain permission to install the equipment.
  • There is an opportunity to earn money if you produce enough electricity to sell it to the state.
  • Maintenance costs remain very low.
  • Lightweight, trouble-free operation, no noise.
  • Solar energy is a dynamic industry, and the efficiency of solar panels is constantly improving. Modern models can work even with overcast clouds (production is reduced in this case).

People who are skeptical about the installation of solar panels operate on the following facts:

  • The panels require an investment, they need space to install, and the efficiency is quite low even with the best models.
  • The panels can only serve as a source of energy during the day. To use the gifts of green energy around the clock, you need a battery – a buffer storage device, as well as an inverter (a device for converting direct current into alternating current). “Free energy from nature” can hardly be called cheap.
  • Green technology harms nature just as well as the traditional combustion of any fuel. It is worth remembering the peculiarities of production and, especially, disposal of panels and batteries. Its environmental friendliness is a big question.
  • Such an energy source can hardly be called independent. You do not have points of intersection with government networks, but you cannot do without companies that service, repair systems, and sell components.
  • It is not always possible to reach the system’s payback; more often, the technology becomes unprofitable. The point is an inattentive selection of panels, low performance, unacceptable climatic conditions.

Solar panels are an alternative energy source in the form of panels (stationary or flexible, portable). The panels are composed of semiconductor elements capable of converting solar energy into direct current. The peculiarity of solar panels is that they cannot work around the clock; therefore, they need additional equipment: a battery and an inverter (to convert direct current into alternating current).

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