One of the first things many people do before installing or buying anything solar energy-related is to learn about how solar energy is even produced. It’s a common question, but one that many may seem lost in along the way.
To keep things simple and easy to understand, we’ve put together a quick science guide to help you learn more about how solar energy is produced—and how that can benefit you in the long run.
First, let’s start off with the basics. When sunlight strikes solar panels, solar power is created which turns solar energy into usable (and renewable) electricity.
Now, different forms of solar panels and technology can do different things. But, don’t worry; we’ll talk about the differences and similarities between these technologies below. It’s also important to note that no solar panel (with solar cells) is made, or produced, the same. There’s a reason why there are cheaper options, as well as incredibly expensive options. Obviously, the better the quality, the higher the price. It’s always worth it to note that, no matter what quality you buy, you’re already saving money compared to using your former energy production methods. So, if you want those high-quality (yet expensive) solar panels, at least you know you’ll be saving money in the long run.
For now, let’s just talk about solar energy in the most basic form
Solar power is one of the cheapest, renewable, cleanest, and greenest renewable energy sources out there. Along with wind power and water power, it’s one of the best—if not the best—ways to produce energy for literally everyone. If you’re a small homeowner or a big business owner, solar energy can benefit you and the environment, as opposed to the likes of fossil fuels and power plants.
So, when the sunlight strikes the solar panels (like we mentioned above), solar power is created and forms electricity. The solar cells (or photovoltaic cells) in the panels convert this by using the photons of light from the sun and then exciting the electrons in silicon cells to create solar electricity.
But how do these different solar panels produce solar electricity in their own way?
Solar panels: converting sunlight to energy
Solar panels (which house the photovoltaic cells or PV cells) are the biggest part of the solar installation and tend to produce the most energy effectively and efficiently. What these solar panels are made of is incredibly important (as they are step one in providing and converting energy). These panels can be made from either monocrystalline or polycrystalline and they are housed in a glass casing in a metal frame for ultimate stability.
The conversion from just plain old sunlight to electrical energy begins when the sunlight hits the thin layer (made of silicon) on the solar panel. This results in pushing electrons off of the silicon atoms. Now, these electrons are charged negatively which results in them being attracted to only one side of the cell. All of this creates an electric current that the solar panel is able to gain a hold of, all because of the wiring in the solar panel. Production, in this case, is everything.
This tends to be known as the “photovoltaic effect.” All of these flowing electrons, now free from the sunlight, begin the basic beginning of electricity that will then be produced from these specific solar panels.
Of course, the more sunlight you have hitting your solar panels, the better. More electrons will be knocked free, which means you’ll produce more renewable energy sources. This is why it’s incredibly important to think of shade and your local weather prior to jumping into investing in solar energy. When planning where you want your roof panels to go, always take surrounding trees or shades into consideration. That way, you’ll be able to produce the most efficient amount of renewable energy possible.
Inverters: turning solar energy into electricity
The next step in the production of solar energy is all about the inverters. Now that loose electrons are bouncing around in all the solar panels (thanks to the sunlight that hit them), we have what is known as the DC (or the direct current). Not to be confused with AC, which is the electrical energy that is used to turn on lights, power devices, or charge certain types of vehicles. AC, however, it’s what we’re looking for.
Our current DC electric state needs to be converted to an AC electric state so that we have this form of electricity. We can’t use the energy until it’s converted to AC electricity. And that’s where inverters come in.
Inverters are able to convert this form of energy without us lifting a finger. Every inverter out there, regardless of how it’s configured or produced, has one main function in mind: converting all that DC electricity the solar panels have to AC electricity that can be used effectively in any home. Now, once this DC electricity passes through these inverters, it’s changed to AC electricity. Just like that!
Now that we have AC electricity, the kind we were so desperately searching for, the electricity flows to the electric panel and meter. Finally, and yet in no time at all, electricity gained from the sunlight can be charged throughout your whole entire house.
The benefits of solar production
Now that there is solar energy and electricity powering through your home, it’s easy to see the benefits that come your way. From helping keep the environment clean and safe to actually decreasing the spending you do on your energy bills, benefits are all around. All of the hard work these solar panels and inverters do come to no harm to you. After installation, you don’t have to do anything. All you have to do is sit back and relax as the solar panels and inverters do all the work.
It’s worth mentioning again to make sure you set up your solar panels where you know they’ll get the most sunlight. You want to make sure you get the most out of your investment into solar energy, so it’s highly recommended that you plan before installation. Again, depending on your price range, try to get the most high-quality solar panels and technologies that you can. They’ll work better and be able to capture more sunlight and convert more energy compared to some of the cheaper ones.
But trust us, once everything is all said and done, you’ll be thanking the day you switched over to solar.