How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?
Solar power is a rising star in the energy industry. It is clean, reliable, and one of the most ideal sources of renewable energy for homes. It can be used for the generation of electricity, but also to heat water in your home, and all of this is possible without the creation of pollution or emissions. If we are looking at the how solar panels generate electricity, then the very basic explanation would be that the panels absorb light and energy from the sun before converting it into energy that can be used in our homes. However, it is actually a lot more complex than that, with each component in the system playing an essential role. This page takes you through how it all works to generate the electricity we use.
The solar panels for most arrays are placed on the roof, although there is the option to have ground mounted models. Ideally, the roof will be free from any kind of shade that may cover the panels during the peak hours of 9am until 3pm. Typically, you will find that a south-facing installation provides the ideal location for a solar array, allowing it to make the most of the sunlight that it receives.
However, if this is not possible, then other orientations may be able to provide equal levels of efficiency during the day. Trees, buildings, and other obstructions that can cause shade during the day will have a significant impact on the overall efficiency of your solar array. If just one of the cells becomes shaded, you can expect the power production levels to be reduced by more than half. Your installer will ensure that shading is avoided.
Not every roof is able to provide the correct orientation or angle of inclination to take full advantage of the energy the sun provides. Some systems have been designed with pivoting panels that automatically track the sun and its journey across the sky. Non-tracking PV systems should be inclined at an angle that is equal to the site’s latitude in order to absorb the most energy throughout the year. Alternate orientations and inclinations may also be used to optimise the production of energy for a particular season or time of day.
The Solar panels
Solar PV cells consist of a positive and negative film of silicon that is placed under a thin slice of glass. As the photons of sunlight reach these cells and hit them, they knock the electrons off the silicon. The negatively charged free electrons are specifically attracted to one side of the silicon cell, and this is what creates an electric voltage that can be collected and then channelled through the home.
This current is gathered by wiring the individual solar panels together in series. As a result, a solar photovoltaic array is formed. Depending on the size of the installation, multiple strings of the array cables will terminate in one electrical box. This is known as a fused array combiner.
In the combiner box are fuses that are designed to protect the individual module cables, as well as the connections that deliver power to the inverter. The electricity that is produced at this stage is direct current (DC) and needs to be converted to alternating current (AC) in order to be suitable for use in your home or place of work.
Generally speaking, you will find the inverter installed in an east to access location, and one that is a practical distance from the modules. When installed residentially, the inverter will usually be found mounted to the exterior sidewall of a home, and near to the electrical main or sub panels. As inverters tend to make a slight noise when running, you should take the location into consideration when they are being installed.
The inverter works to turn DC electricity that has been generated by the solar panels into 120v AC. This can be put to use immediately by connecting the inverter directly to a dedicated circuit breaker in the electrical panel.
The inverter, electricity production meter, and electricity net meter are connected, so that power that is produced by your solar electric system will first be consumed by the electrical loads that are currently in operation. The balance of power that is created by your solar system then passes through your electrical panel before heading out onto the grid. Whenever you are producing more electricity that you are consuming at the time, your utility meter will turn backwards.
The Net meter
The solar systems that are tied to the National Grid have the DC power converted into 120/240v AC power before it is fed directly into the energy power distribution system for the home. The power is also net metered. This means that is reduced the demand for power from the utility when the solar array is generating electricity.
The energy bills for the household are lowered as a result. A system that is tied to the grid will shut down automatically if the power goes offline, preventing the energy from being fed back into the grid during a power outage. Solar systems that are a part of this system are known as on-grid or battery-less. Currently, they make up around 98% of the solar arrays that are currently being installed.
Other Benefits of Solar Power
They lower the energy bills that you have to pay to keep your home running, allowing them to pay for themselves over time. They can also help to reduce the pollution that is caused by energy companies as a result. This is because they help to prevent the energy companies from needing to turn on expensive and pollutant supplemental systems during periods of peak power demand.
Solar power also helps the environment, by producing clean energy that is free from pollutants and emissions. It also helps to create jobs in clean energy, continuing to ensure that more and more people are employed. In addition to this, solar panels do not produce any noise, so you won’t find yourself disturbed during the day or evening. It’s a cost effective and green way to go.
Want to Know More?
Have you found yourself interested in solar panels? If you want to know more then make sure you head to our marketplace where you can find our full range of products, each with the relevant information. Or simply give us a ring using the number at the top of this page and have a chat.