Solar Energy Explained: How Do Solar Panels Work?

Thinking of working toward a cleaner future with renewable energy solutions generated from solar panels, but aren’t exactly sure how it works?

At Solar Naturally, we’re passionate about keeping our environment safe and investing in the future. By harnessing the sun’s energy and transforming it into electricity, we are able to provide clean power that can then be used in your home, business and community.

How do solar panels actually work?

A solar panel creates electricity by absorbing particles of light (also known as photon atoms), it then harvests electrons from these photon atoms, which generates electricity that can be used to power electronic systems. A solar panel is comprised of many small units that are referred to as photovoltaic cells. The term photovoltaic refers to the process of converting light into energy by using semiconducting materials. The photovoltaic effect is often a phenomenon for those who study photochemistry, electrochemistry and physics.

A photovoltaic cell is created by using two pieces of semiconducting materials and then samwiching them together. The main material used to produce solar panels is silicon, which is a non-metal that has semiconducting elements. Because of its semiconducting properties, silicon is often found in microelectronic devices.

For the photovoltaic cells to function, they need to create an electric field. This is similar to creating a magnetic field, where polar opposites create a reaction. Opposite charges need to be separated in order to make an electric field between the two slices of silicon. To do this, a manufacturer has to give one half of the materials a positive electrical charge and the other negative to conduct electricity.

To break it down further, manufacturers will add phosphorus to the silicon on top of the cell. This gives the top layer a negative charge caused by having extra electrons. Then boron is added to the bottom layer, which gives it a positive charge and fewer electrons. When the two layers are together and a photon from the sunlight hits an electron, the energy between the two layers forces the electron out of the photovoltaic cell.

Once the election is forced out of the cell, they are transferred into the wires after being collected by the bordering metal conductive plates. At the end of this process you have electrons that look like regular electricity and can be used to power any electronic item.

This method of renewable energy reduces the need for the generation of fossil fuel and cuts greenhouse emissions. The production and manufacturing of solar panels hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years, because of this, the demand of installations in consumers’ homes has allowed a decrease in cost of solar cells.

What about excess energy from solar panels?

Excess energy can be sent to a battery storage system where it can be reserved for later use, regardless if the sun is shining or not.

It can also be sent back to the grid, taking in unused energy generated by the solar panel system. If the sun’s hiding behind the clouds and the stored power is needed, the switch between the solar panel system and the grid is automatically shifted to allow power to be drawn from the excess.

Unused energy can also be credited to your power bill where the amount is determined by the feed-in tariff. In order for the units of incoming and outgoing power to be reported, a new bi-directional meter must be installed by your electricity retailer.

By mounting solar panels onto the roof of your home and maximising the exposure of sunlight, this energy system is bound to help reduce your carbon footprint as well as your power bill, as you create your own energy to use and save.


If you’d like to be a part of the solution, take a look at five ways you can create an energy efficient home, check out our solar energy calculator or for more information about going solar, click here to get a quote from us or you can call us on 1300 168 138.


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1 Comment
  1. Kudos to you for sharing such valuable insights in your blog post. It left me with a fresh perspective on the topic.

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