With society becoming more environmentally aware, it begs the question – how rapidly will our world shift to environmentally conscious decisions, such as solar energy? The US is expected to install 3 million PV panels in 2021 and 4 million units in 2023, with that number steadily increasing as more homeowners become aware of solar energy and its benefits.
However, with this awareness comes questions – how does solar work? How do solar systems create energy to power my home? In this article, we’ll break down how solar power works and what it can do for you and your home.
The components that make up a solar system come together to power your home in four easy steps:
- When sunlight strikes the solar panels themselves, the energy is captured and creates a direct current (DC) that runs through a series of wires and conduit within the panel.
- The DC electricity is then transferred into an inverter, where it is converted into alternating current (AC) electricity. This is the electricity that is used to power your home.
- The converted electricity is then sent to your electrical panel and distributed throughout your home – similar to how electricity flows from the utility grid for a pre-solar home.
- During the hot, summer months or when no one is home consuming any electricity being produced, you may create an excess of energy. Your solar system uses a meter that measures how much electricity you consume compared to how much is being produced. Any excess is sent back to the utility company for a set price per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This is known as Net Metering (NEM).
Now, let’s dive into the solar science behind these steps.
Solar Cell Technology
A solar system may seem complex at face value, but the components that actually make up a solar system are fairly easy to understand.
Solar panels are made up of three main materials: silicon, metal, and glass. Solar photovoltaic (also known as PV) panels use a special type of silicon as the main component. Silicon is used to create semiconductors — a crystal material that creates more energy with higher temperature. Silicon is the main component of a solar panel due to its long life span, ability to optimize efficiency for photovoltaic, and availability.
The semiconductors that are created for these solar panels are what help transfer captured energy from the sun, and is known as the photovoltaic effect. Once solar rays are captured, energy then needs to be converted into a usable source for the home.
Solar panels are layered with a layer of glass with an anti-reflective coating to guard the silicon cells, while also allowing the light through to produce energy. The solar cells, which are also referred to as photovoltaic cells, absorb sunlight during the day hours.
A plastic or polymer frame houses the cells to help prevent premature breakdown, and the metal framing conceals the wiring that runs throughout the panel. This backing is what installers use to attach your solar panels to your roof or ground mount system.
Inverter – How Does It Work?
A solar inverter, often referred to as the “brains,” is a device that converts the DC energy from sunlight into a usable AC current that powers your home. Over the years, the solar inverter has been greatly optimized into something far more efficient than just a conversion tool.
Many solar inverters are now being used to create a monitoring system, allowing homeowners to track their usage, their production and ensure their panels are operating at full capacity. Inverters also help simplify any necessary repairs that may need to occur throughout the life of the panel.
Data monitoring through an inverter allows homeowners to have full transparency of the production and status of their solar system, and can be used to bring to light any issues or concerns that would have been easily overlooked otherwise.
Powering Your World
Once converted to AC energy, the sunlight captured through the panels is then fed through a breaker box and dispersed throughout the home or business. The total amount of energy produced is dependent on the number of panels installed within a system, the type of inverter used, and the efficiency rating of all aspects within the panel.
Homes that require more energy, such as an EV charger or hot tub, will need a larger system to supplement that usage. When considering solar, it’s best to take into consideration all future energy needs to ensure that the solar system will continue to produce the right amount of energy for the lifetime of the system.
Purelight is Here to Help!
Solar power may seem complicated at first glance, but Purelight Power is here to ensure the utmost transparency, simplicity and quality throughout your switch to solar. When considering solar, it’s important to choose a company that offers the right warranties, the right support and the right service.
Backed with our 25 Year Performance Guarantee, 20 Year Panel Warranty, 10 Year Workmanship Guarantee and a team of expert in-house installers, Purelight is ready to help you wipe out your power bill and own your power.
Interested in seeing what Purelight Power, the top rated solar company in Oregon and Iowa can do for you? Take our 30 second survey and see if your roof qualifies instantly!