Last updated: November 17, 2020

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Published 2:11 am

Introduction

The potentials of solar energy are quite enormous, and many people are already tapping into it as a source of energy for powering their homes, offices, cars, etc. The transition from other sources of energy to this source is constantly increasing, and from the look of things, there is no stopping it. This has increased the curiosity of people on how this energy is being harnessed. However, despite the high curiosity, most people still know very little about how this technology works. Inquiries such as how solar panels draw energy from the sun are quite common.

Also, there is the potential of photovoltaic cells serving as the new main energy source, and it also leads to comments like how do solar generators work? How do we adopt them into our day to day lives? Answers to these inquiries and more are provided, with major emphasis on how these devices work. This will help people the best from them and reduce wastage.

How is Solar Energy Harnessed?

One of the cleanest and renewable ways of harnessing solar energy is through the use of solar panels. But how these panels work still eludes some people’s understanding; however, it is not rocket science. The most basic explanation is that solar panels absorb sunlight, which is then converted to electricity. But there is more to this as some processes make everything look seamless, and it can be attributed to the Photovoltaic cell’s abilities.

The photovoltaic cells can absorb sunlight, and this can be converted to electricity. Sunlight emits electromagnetic radiation. This acts both as a wave and a particle. The particles are called photons. It is these photons that hit the photovoltaic cells and begin the process that results in electricity. Electrons get excited and begin to move when the PV cell comes in contact with photons.

Various actions contribute to this process’s success, for example, the panel’s position, the solar intensity, the material used in making the solar panel, etc. You must understand all these variables, especially if you plan on making one yourself.

How are Photovoltaic Cells Made?

How do they work? Photovoltaic cells combined with conductive materials are mainly what makes a solar panel. This combination can be done repeatedly to give large and relatively complex solar panels that are used in some places of work and some residential areas. The photovoltaic cells have to be made before the combination is done, and their makeup is quite intricate. They are made from a semi-conductive material, which is usually silicon. This material is divided into two, doped, and placed on top of each other.

The reason for doping the semi-conductive material is to create an electric field because an ordinary semi-conductive material would not work in a photovoltaic cell. An electric field is created when electric charges, either positive or negative, attract or repel themselves. The electric field makes it possible for photons to excite electrons in the cell, therefore knocking them loose. It is the flow of these electrons that leads to the generation of electricity.

How do Solar Panels Work to Generate electricity

Building photovoltaic cells that will make up the solar panel is the first step to generating electricity. As said earlier, the primary semi-conductive material usually used in making these cells is silicon. The next step is to create an electric field. Silicon has the same charge; that is, one of the two charge types, positive and negative, is not present. However, an electric field needs both negative and positive charges to create a field. To achieve this, silicon has to be doped.

First, there should be two silicon materials, both of which are to be doped. The purpose of doping both materials is to give them opposing charges. To achieve this, silicon is doped with other elements. One of the materials is usually treated with phosphorus, while the other is usually treated with boron. The material treated with phosphorus gets extra electrons and becomes negatively charged. At the same time, the material treated with boron loses electrons and becomes positively charged. The negatively charged material is placed on top of the positively charged layer of silicon.

The combination of both doped layers of silicon creates an electric field and allows for electrons’ movement.

What is the Principle Behind the Solar Panel?

The summary of the principle behind this whole intricate process is that the photovoltaic cells, which have an electric field thanks to them being doped, can generate electricity when they absorb a considerable amount of energy from photons. This energy is enough to free electrons, and these loose electrons can be directed and utilized for electricity.

The loose electrons in the photovoltaic cells have to be collected; however, this is not done by the PV cell because they are not designed for such and can’t do it alone. This is where the other components of the solar panel come in. The PV cells and the solar panel’s conductive parts ensure that the energy captured is well conserved and transferred. However, it is important to mention that there is also energy loss in this process.

Metal plates collect the freed electrons. These metal plates are found on the edges of the solar panels. The collected electrons in the metal plates are then transferred through wires to devices in the form of electricity. This whole process is responsible for converting solar energy to electricity that is then used to power devices.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

The efficiency of solar panels keeps on increasing thanks to constant advancement in solar technology. However, solar panels are not designed to work at night. This is because they rely on photons emitted from the sun to cause excitation in their electric field and knock electrons loose. But, at night, this process is hindered due to the small number of photons present. Even the light rays from the moon are not strong enough to trigger electrons in the solar panel.

Nevertheless, there is still provision for the night as most solar energy companies ensure that their solar panel comes with a battery cell where you can store the excess electricity during the day for later use at night. So, you can still power your home at night using electricity generated from your solar panel. If the power generated is relatively low, you can still combine it with your utility connections.

Some solar cells don’t come with a battery cell that can store the excess energy; if you happen to have such solar panel, all hope is not lost as you can store the excess in a utility grid. Many utility companies will love to take your excess energy, and some will pay or attach bonuses for this service.

Conclusion

Understanding how solar panels work will help you get the best out of them. There are portable solar panels‘ that can serve as an alternative source of energy and, in some cases, the main in areas with excellent sunlight supply. The world is heading towards greener, cleaner, and renewable forms of energy, and solar energy is one of them. Now you know how they work, you may want to invest in them and reduce your carbon footprint.