How Do Solar Panels Work?

How Do Solar Panels Work?

We see solar panels every day, we might even have our own but not many of us can explain how sunlight turns into energy. The science behind solar power technology may seem complex but examining the process by which light is converted into electricity can help you get the most out of your panels, not to mention giving a renewed appreciation for the power of our sun.

Read on to find out more about how solar power works and if you’re already an expert, take a look at our guide to off grid and stand alone solar.

Photovolactic cells

The solar or ‘photovolactic’ cells covering the outside of your solar panel are responsible for converting the sun’s energy into electricity. Sunlight is made up of tiny particles called photons and as they hit the silicon atoms contained within the photovolactic cells, their energy is transferred to loose electrons, breaking them away from the atoms.

Electricity

Once the electrons are freed up from the silicon atoms, they need to be moved into an electric current. This happens when an electrical imbalance is created within the cell, forcing the electrons to slow down and flow in the same direction. Because of their tightly bound structure, silicon atoms split into two different types of atom when another element is added to their structure. The ‘n-type’ has spare electrons while the ‘p-type’ has missing electrons.

When the n-type and p-type silicon are placed next to each other within the solar cell, the n-type’s spare silicon moves over to fill the gaps in the p-type silicon. The n-type silicon becomes positively charged while the p-type is negative, creating an electric field.

Plugging in

In order to use the energy created within the solar panel's cells, it needs to be converted from direct current to alternating current using a deep cycle battery and inverter. This allows you to use the electricity generated by your solar panel with 240v appliances, including laptops and televisions.

Choosing the right panel

Whether you’re looking for a panel to install as part of an off grid set up or a portable solar system, it’s important to check the specifications before you buy.

The three main types of solar cell found in most modern panels are mono-crystalline which works best in direct sunlight, poly-crystalline which functions in low-light conditions and the flexible amorphous panels. Kyocera solar panels, use Japanese-made multi-crystalline solar cells with large surface area for greater sunlight collection, as well as a low-iron glass that allows more sunlight to reach the cells and prevents energy drop in hot temperatures.

Other considerations when choosing a portable solar panel include weather proof frames, heavy duty cabling and latches and warranty on the entire panel, not just the cells.

Take a look at the Aussie Batteries & Solar range of solar panels.

April 16, 2014 | By Nathan Gathercole| Comments
About Nathan

Nathan is the owner of Aussie Batteries & Solar, and has been immersed in the battery industry for many years. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, he enjoyed taking full advantage of the spectacular outdoors on offer, and has turned this passion into a thriving business. As the saying goes, "Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life".