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Solar Panels 101: How They Produce Energy

An increasingly large number of people know solar panels are a reliable source of clean energy — and an economical alternative to fossil fuels. While the idea of solar energy has been around since the nineteenth century, it’s only in the last few decades that the technology has become effective enough to see widespread use in homes and businesses.
While you don’t need to understand how solar technology works to benefit from it, it helps to have a background when pricing out a system or choosing an installer. Here’s a quick guide to the basics of how a solar installation works.

Solar Energy System Components

A typical solar system will consist of four main components:

  • The solar panel array: This is comprised of individual photovoltaic (PV) cells that absorb energy from the sun.
  • The battery: This stores the energy generated from the PV cells until it’s needed.
  • The controller: This ensures the battery is charged to the appropriate level and directs the flow of electricity through the system.
  • The inverter: Finally, the inverter converts the energy generated by the system into the proper format for use with a home or business’ electrical system.

In addition to these components, a solar system may also include mounting hardware and tracking equipment to position the panel so it faces the sun. Solar systems can be standalone or tied to the grid. In the latter configuration, a distributor automatically ensures that grid power is available when necessary.

How Photovoltaic (PV) Cells Work

The most important part of a solar installation is its PV cells. PV cells typically consist of two thin layers of semiconducting material. On top is a layer of silicon (known as the N-layer) that has been bonded with phosphorus, creating a negative electrical charge. On the bottom is a second layer of silicon bonded with boron. The silicon-boron layer, which is known as the P-layer, has a positive charge. Between the two is what’s known as the silicon junction.

When light particles strike the N-layer, electrons are knocked free, creating an electrical charge in the silicon junction. A series of conductive wires captures this charge and moves it through the system, where it’s stored and converted into usable electricity when needed.

Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar technology is constantly evolving. While the above accurately describes a basic residential or commercial system, innovations are entering the market all the time. Today’s best PV panels can convert solar energy to usable power with up to 22% efficiency.

As our manufacturer partners introduce new PV products, Bright Eye Solar will continue providing options at a range of price points and configurations. To learn more about what’s currently available, contact our office to request a consultation at your convenience.