How Do Solar Panels Work?

Yellow background with white solar panel icon

The U.S. is one of an ever-growing group of countries encouraging the use of solar power. As of 2014, over 480,000 solar panel systems have been put into use, providing enough energy to power roughly 2.4 million homes. But just how do those solar panels light up the nation?

Getting a Little Sun

Gleaming black on rooftops, solar panels need but to bask in the sunlight to create energy. Comprised of solar cells, layers of silicon-based semiconductor wafers bundled together like a sandwich, power is generated by capturing sunlight. Dubbed the “photovoltaic effect,” the creation of energy from this captured sunlight is an amazing process.

  • Sunlight shines on the solar cell.
  • Photons from sunlight are caught by the top part of the cell.
  • Photons carry light’s energy down through the cell.
  • Photons give up their energy to electrons in the lower layer.
  • Electrons jump to the upper layer of the cell, escaping into the circuit, and creating electrical current.
  • The solar panel combines the current generated from all the solar cells in its unit.
  • This direct current (DC), is sent through an inverter, which transfers the current into alternating current (AC), the kind used by your appliances.
  • The electricity provided is integrated into your existing electric service, with your local utility provider supplying the needed backup you need on those days when the sun’s not so shiny or additional electricity is needed.

Don’t Get Burned by Misconceptions

Energy available from the sun is plentiful, however the typical solar cell is only about 15% efficient. That’s why to take advantage of this energy, solar panels are created extra big. The amount of power they can generate is directly linked to how much area you can cover with cells. A single cell generates 3-4.5 watts a power, a module 100-300, and several solar panels (made of 3-4 modules each) such as you would see on the typical home’s roof an absolute max of several kilowatts. Enough to meet the average home’s peak power needs… But don’t expect one of those mystical credits from the electric company anytime soon. Solar panels are intended for use WITH your existing electric service – not to replace it.

Ready to take more of your power needs into your own hands and drastically lower your carbon footprint? Solar panel prices have plummeted in recent years with advances in technology. Take advantage of the infinitely renewable, pollution-free energy of the sun. Better meet the electricity needs of your home with the addition of solar panels. Contact Mr. Electric® to learn more today.


For Further Reading:

5 Decorative Deck Lighting Options

It’s Time for an Electrical Safety Inspection 

Spring Cleaning: Light Globes