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How Do Solar Panels Work?

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How Do Solar Panels Work? Easy Guide To Solar

It is a shame to see the sunshine go to waste, especially in sunny Australia. That’s why plenty of Australian households have taken the plunge and installed solar panels. So, how do solar panels work?

It is no secret that solar panels are a game-changer in the Australian weather with the amount of sunshine we get all year round. Solar technology helps to turn these sun rays into electric energy that can be used in your home or stored in a battery for emergencies.

In this blog we are going to explain how solar panels work and the benefit they can bring to your household during sunny periods. 

If you are interested in solar, don’t hesitate to request a proposal from my team. You can contact us here. We also provide free energy assessments which are helpful for understanding how solar can help you. Request an energy assessment here

Lets jump into the question and deep dive to understand how solar panels work and see if we can learn anything new today.

Table Of Contents

What Is Solar Energy?

So let’s go right back to basics so we can answer ‘how do solar panels work?’. Simply, solar radiation is just light from the sun. If you want a fancy name for it, then you can call it electromagnetic radiation

If you want to get even more technical and really impress your friends at the pub, then deep in the sun, there is a constant nuclear fusion. This is protons colliding together in intense heat and pressure to create helium. Altogether, this creates energy. It is constantly happening in the sun with up to 500 million tons of hydrogen atoms every second. 

The key benefit of solar energy, and a lot of renewable energy sources, is that it does not run out. The energy harvested by the sun can be used all year round, especially if you store it in a solar battery. This means Australians can make use of their solar panels as long as the sun is shining! 

It is also a green energy source, collected throughout the day in sunlight hours. It’s an excellent solution for the planet’s future as it doesn’t harm the world and utilises the natural resources on earth. 

PS. Let’s not forget that in 2020, solar energy was found to be the cheapest form of energy on the planet…

How Do Solar Panels Generate Solar Energy?

Before looking at how solar panels work, we need to understand how solar panels generate solar energy. 

Solar panels are made of photovoltaic panels with solar cells in the glass. It is made with a positive and negative layer which, when combined together, form an electric field. 

This may sound familiar to a battery. They work the same as they have a negative and positive side to make it work. 

So, the PV panels will generate DC electricity through the negative side and pass out through the positive side. Now, Australian homes use AC electricity. Therefore, solar panels will have an inverter which changes the current from DC to AC. 

It is important to note here that DC current, also known as direct current, is the more dangerous one. So, having an inverter changing it to an AC current is such an important step when solar panels are generating solar energy. Once that step is done, you can use the solar energy created in your home to power your appliances. 

Some inverters have even gone as far as converting the DC current immediately into a low AC voltage. One issue with DC electricity is that it has a high voltage which can lead to danger. By using an enphase microinverter, it reduces the DC volts and generates low voltage AC.

Here’s a list of the best solar inverters to help convert that energy into AC energy. These are the best ones in Australia, as nominated by our solar engineers.

sunlight sitting solar panels and begin generating energy to be sent back to your home for use.

All Of The Work Is Done By The Solar Cell

To make a large solar panel, it consists of several solar cells. Usually made from silicone as it can absorb sunlight and is a non-mental semiconductor. 

When solar panels were first created in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel, it was discovered that to generate electricity through solar panels, you need the photovoltaic effect. These are certain materials, commonly known as semiconductors, that create an electric current in sunlight. 

Silicon is the most popular. However, copper indium gallium diselenide and cadmium-telluride are two other semiconductors used. The solar cell plays a massive role when looking at ‘how do solar panels work’, and it is important that the cell technology used is the most efficient. 

If you get a less efficient solar cell, it will generate less energy and not last very long, costing you more money in the future. On the other hand, the best solar cells will perform well and generate more energy without losing any power that can sometimes get lost in the conversion. 

We’ve got an awesome blog on some of the types of solar panels you might see on the market today.

So, How Do Solar Panels Work?

So, finally, how do solar panels work?

First, as mentioned previously, the photons from the sun hit the solar panel and essentially drop their electrons from their atoms. The photovoltaic effect occurs here in the solar cells and produces an electric current. 

We know that the DC electricity that comes from the sun itself is converted through a solar inverter into AC electricity. This is what makes it usable in the home. You can also get transformers or micro inverters that help control the voltage of the DC and AC currents. 

After the electricity is converted to AC, it is dispersed among your house outlets for you to use. You can also store the solar panel energy in an off-grid solar battery. This can either be the excess solar power not used, or you can just choose to store it up. 

Another advantage if you have a grid-tied solar system is that you can actually make money…pretty cool, I know! Through a net metering policy, you can get credits from the excess energy produced by your solar panels. This not only means you are saving the planet, but you are also saving money whilst doing it.

Diagram of solar panel working.

The Solar Inverter Is Important As Well…

We touched on inverters before; however, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of an inverter when looking at ‘how do solar panels work.’

Solar cells do most of the work in emitting the sun energy into the PV panel itself. However, the power of the inverter should not be overlooked. Think of it like your heart; if you didn’t have it pumping all the blood around your body, the rest of the bodily functions would be pointless. The same goes for an inverter in a solar panel.

Not only do they do the vital job of changing DC current to AC, but they also assist with ground fault protection and general system statistics. Typically, tracking the powerpoint and the voltage of the currents. 

Therefore, it is no surprise that the micro inverters such as Enphase transformed the whole solar panel inverter industry. It not only helps solar panels maximise their potential but also solves the issue central inverters have supporting all solar panels. 

Furthermore, micro inverters enhance singular solar panels rather than the solar system, meaning that if one has a problem, it does not affect the others.

Micro inverters have really shaped the new world of solar panels and injected a boost of confidence into the community that is worried about the DC voltage. 

Here’s a guide explaining the difference between micro-inverters and string inverters. It will help you understand why they are important and what steps they have taken to advance the solar industry.

Some Solar Panels Can Generate Energy Better Than Others

Like anything you buy these days, there is always going to be competition in the market. Solar panels are no different; some brands are better than others. 

This is mainly down to the technology used to improve the efficiency and energy generation of solar panels. To save you some time searching around for the best solar panel, we have suggested the best in the industry.

We would say Sunpower is the best solar panel in the industry and currently dominates it. They offer an unmatched 40-year warranty and have the highest efficiency, which is what you want from your solar panels. Feel free to read our full sunpower review here

Jinko is also a great solar panel company that has been popular recently. They offer great prices, warranty and performance for everyone and anyone wanting to start their solar panel journey. Again, we’ve got our full Jinko review here

German brand QCell offers high quality at a more affordable price. We recommend this to those who don’t have a big budget but still want high-efficiency solar panels. 

Blue-chip Hyundai is a very reliable solar panel. The familiar name gives the customer confidence in the product backed by a 25-year warranty. Another quality choice.

sunpower is the most efficient solar panel, then jinko and after that it's qcell.

Why Are Solar Panels So Popular?

Solar panels are so popular (especially in the Australian weather) because they save money and allow you to become independent of the energy grid. 

Not only do you save money in the long run, but you are also making a greener step for the environment. Utilising the planet’s natural renewable resources is the future solution to powering our homes. So getting ahead of the game will only help you and the earth in the long run. 

We’ve got a long list of all the advantages and disadvantages of solar here

It is also cheaper than buying electricity from the grid, giving you a bit more financial freedom. On the other hand, relying on the grid takes away your freedom by tying you into contracts and depending on them during a power outage. 

Take back your money and freedom by storing and supplying your own solar energy through your solar panels. It makes sense right?

Conclusion

So now you have answered the question on how solar panels work, it should give you a better understanding of the benefits of solar panels. 

The Australian weather lends itself to this renewable energy resource more than most countries in the world, so it would be silly not to invest in it.

Solar panels help to set you free from the financial burden of the energy grid and are a great way to help save the planet. 

What are your thoughts on solar panels now? Let me know in the comments below 😁.

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Written By:

Luke Cove
Managing Director
Lightning Solar & Electrical

luke cove - Founder of lightning solar

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