How do Solar Panels Work? A California Solar Pro Explains

Solar panels aren’t just good for the environment, they also save you money every month on your energy bills.

But how exactly do solar panels work?

The short answer is that solar panels transform sunlight into electricity and then send that electricity into your home. But of course, there’s a lot more science behind solar technology than that simple answer suggests.

To give you a more in-depth answer, we’ll dive deeper and explain what solar panels are composed of that allows them to turn sunlight into electricity.

Interested in learning more about going solar? Contact Photon Brothers. We help homeowners throughout Colorado and California achieve energy independence with high-quality, long-lasting solar panel system installations.

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How does a solar panel produce energy?

Solar panels are made up of many small units called solar cells. These solar cells are responsible for turning sunlight into electricity. A single panel can contain anywhere from 32 to 96 cells.

Each solar cell consists of two different layers of a naturally occurring element called silicon. One layer is composed of a positively-charged silicon while the other is negatively-charged silicon. When the two oppositely-charged layers are combined, an electric field is generated between them.

Now enter sunlight. Sunlight is essentially a stream of elements called photons. When a photon hits the solar cell, it can knock an electron loose from the atoms that comprise the silicon layers. The electric field between the two layers forces that extra floating electron to move toward the negatively-charged silicon layer.

Now imagine on a sunny day that a non-stop stream of photons (sunlight) pelts the solar panel. This means many electrons are knocked loose then all flow toward the same direction (toward the negatively-charged silicon).

This constant, orderly flow of electrons is…electricity!

How does the energy get to your home?

First off, a single solar cell can produce roughly .5 volts, which isn’t much power at all. However, a solar panel with 36 solar cells in total can produce ~17 volts. When you have several solar panels all creating electricity at the same time, you now have a good amount of electricity being produced.

But how does that energy find its way into your home?

Wiring runs through a solar panel to capture and collect the electricity produced by each solar cell. From there, the wire directs all of that newly-produced electricity into an “inverter”. This inverter transforms the “DC” or direct current electricity into “AC” or alternating current electricity, which is the type of electricity that your home’s appliances need.

Once the electricity is transformed into AC current, it travels along more wiring until it reaches your home’s electrical panel. From there, the electrical panel feeds that electricity throughout your home to power your appliances.

Do solar panels work when there’s no sunlight?

The short answer is, no.

Solar panels might work on cloudy days but they won’t be able to produce nearly as much electricity as they could during a day with full sunlight.However, solar panels tend to produce more power than you use up during a normal sunny day. If you have a solar battery, that extra electricity can be stored for use during nights or cloudy days.

Have more solar questions? Ask Photon Brothers

At Photon Brothers, we’re happy to walk you through the advantages of installing a solar system for your home. We understand it may be a big step to take and we’re committed to answering any questions you may have.

Photon Brothers has installed high-quality, durable solar panel systems for homeowners all over the Colorado and California Central Coast area. We’re proud to say that our entire installation process is handled by a team that’s entirely in-house. That’s something that most competitors can’t promise and it means a faster, tighter-coordinated installation.

We offer high-quality REC solar panels and Tesla powerwall storage batteries that, together, help you optimize your energy savings and decrease your reliance on the grid.

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