How Do Solar Panels Work? A Complete Guide for California Homeowners

Getting solar panels for your home is a great way to save money and the environment! Solar energy may be one of our only hopes for turning around global warming. Plus, government incentives have made them more affordable than ever to buy.

If you’ve ever wondered how exactly solar panels work to capture solar energy for use in your home, then you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading to answer the question: how do solar panels work?


How Do Solar Panels Work?

You’ve probably seen the large shiny black solar panels on buildings before. But you may not be sure how effective they really are. Today’s solar technology is better than ever before! Making it easier to harness the power of the sun for your home.

The Photovoltaic Effect

Solar panels are actually many photovoltaic cells that link together to create a giant panel. The term photovoltaic means that it converts sunlight into electricity. This was discovered in 1839 when French physicist, Edmond Becquerel first discovered the photovoltaic effect.

The photovoltaic effect is when the silicon cells interact with sunlight and cause electrons within the nonmetal to be set into motion. This starts the flow of an electric current.

The Power of Silicon

Each of the cells is like a sandwich of silicon mixed with impurities to create a conducting material. The sandwich consists of opposite charges which, when separated, create an electric field. Silicon happens to be the most common element in the Earth’s crust, second only to oxygen.

You may have noticed shiny black specks littering the sand at the beach? That’s actually silicon! During the 1940s, an engineer name Russell Shoemaker Ochs discovered that silicon naturally converts sunlight into electricity.

The great thing about silicon is, like other crystals, it can be grown. Scientists are able to grow tubes of silicon crystals and then cut them into sheets called wafers. Today the slices are made with lasers.

How Does It Work in Your Home?

Once the solar panels absorb sunlight they generate a direct current (DC) of energy. An inverter connected to the panels will convert the DC energy into AC energy. This then flows through an electrical panel installed in your home. 

The panel is what distributes the electricity where it is needed inside your house. Any extra electricity that is produced by the solar panels but is not used returns to the electric grid.

Solar Energy of the Future

The future of solar energy is getting much smaller! Researchers are looking into flexible solar cells that are only 1.3 microns thick! This is the equivalent to 1/100th the width of a human hair. 

Making solar energy cells smaller helps to expand its uses and accessibility. They even could lead to wearable electronics. Solar manufacturers are also focused on improving the strength of solar panels and their ability to withstand the elements. 

Over time the efficiency of solar panels has also improved. Ultimately how much of the sunlight is converted into electricity.

Is Solar Energy Right for You?

We hope that this information about “how do solar panels work” has helped you understand the science behind solar energy a bit more. Solar energy continues to grow in popularity due to its ability to reduce your utility bill and as a reusable source of energy.

Looking for more great ways to improve your home and lifestyle? Check out these helpful articles here. 

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