How do solar panels work for your home?

- Step by step overview Solar panels work by absorbing sunlight with photovoltaic cells, generating direct current (DC) energy and then converting it to usable alternating current (AC) energy with the help of inverter technology. AC energy then flows through the home’s electrical panel and is distributed accordingly.

Here are the main steps for how solar panels work for your home:

- Photovoltaic cells absorb the sun’s energy and convert it to DC electricity.

- The solar inverter converts DC electricity from your solar modules to AC electricity, which is used by most home appliances.

- Electricity flows through your home, powering electronic devices.

- Excess electricity produced by solar panels is fed to the electric grid.

How do solar panels work to generate electricity?

- A standard solar panel (also known as a solar module) consists of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing, and various wiring to allow current to flow from the silicon cells. Silicon (atomic #14 on the periodic table) is a nonmetal with conductive properties that allow it to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. When light interacts with a silicon cell, it causes electrons to be set into motion, which initiates a flow of electric current. This is known as the “photovoltaic effect,” and it describes the general functionality of solar panel technology.

The photovoltaic effect

- The science of generating electricity with solar panels boils down to the photovoltaic effect. It was first discovered in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel and can be generally thought of as a characteristic of certain materials (known as semiconductors) that allows them to generate an electric current when exposed to sunlight.

The photovoltaic process works through the following simplified steps:

- The silicon photovoltaic solar cell absorbs solar radiation

- When the sun’s rays interact with the silicon cell, electrons begin to move, creating a flow of electric current

- Wires capture and feed this direct current (DC) electricity to a solar inverter to be converted to alternating current (AC) electricity.

How does grid connection work with solar panels?

- Though electricity generation with solar panels may make sense to most people, there’s still a lot of general confusion about how the grid factors into the home solar process.

Any home that is connected to the electrical grid will have something called a utility meter that your energy provider uses to measure and supply power to your home. When you install solar panels on your roof or on a ground mount on your property, they are eventually connected to your home’s utility meter. The production of your solar system can actually be accessed and measured by this meter.

Most homeowners in the U.S. have access to net metering, a major solar incentive that significantly improves the economics of solar. If you have net metering, you can send power to the grid when your solar system is overproducing (like during the day in sunny summer months) in exchange for credits on your electric bill. Then, during hours of low electricity production (such as nighttime or overcast days), you can use your credits to draw extra energy from the grid and meet your household electricity demand. In a sense, net metering offers a free storage solution to property owners who go solar, making solar an all-in-one energy solution. Considering that the most common aversion that people have to going solar is the issue of what to do at night or on days with bad weather, a free storage solution as efficient as net metering is a game-changer in terms of solar adoption.

These types of incentives, plus the fact that the cost of solar has dropped by almost 70 percent in the past decade, can explain why the solar industry is growing at an exponential rate in the United States.

What are some of the advantages of solar power?

- Solar panels give you guaranteed power when the sun is shining providing a consistent, stable form of generation throughout the day.

- Solar panels don’t need as much space as other renewable technologies and can be installed in a wide range of places.

- After they’ve been installed, solar panels need little to no maintenance – just occasional cleaning to keep them clear of dirt and debris.

- Solar panels don’t create any noise pollution while generating electricity. This means that installations aren’t intrusive whether they’re in crowded urban locations or quiet rural ones.

- Solar panels are very safe. They're mostly made from silicon sheets, and there's no danger of the photovoltaic cells leaking or emitting any toxins or fumes.