How does Solar Power Work?

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Solar Power is arguably the cleanest, most reliable form of renewable energy available, and it can be used in several forms to help power your home or business. Solar powered photovoltaic (PV) panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity by exciting electrons in silicon cells using the photons of light from the sun. This electricity can then be used to supply renewable energy to your home or business.

How do Solar Panels Work?

A solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. That’s a technical way of saying that the panel’s photovoltaic cells convert the energy in sunlight to electricity (specifically, direct current (DC)). This DC electricity is then converted to alternating current (AC) by an inverter.

AC is the type of electrical current you typically use when you plug anything into a residential wall socket. If you have solar on your roof, the system’s electrical panel sends power to your lights and appliances.

Difference between Solar Energy and Solar Power

Solar energy is defined as the total energy that the sun radiates through visible light and other unseen electromagnetic waves. Solar energy systems refer to any technology that converts the sun’s energy into another form of energy, such as heat or electricity. Solar energy includes passive solar systems, solar thermal systems for water or space heating, and solar power.

Solar power is a a subset of solar energy, a more narrow term that typically refers to the conversion of the sun’s rays to electricity. The two main kinds of solar power systems are photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert sunlight to electricity directly with a semiconductor material, and concentrated solar power (CSP) systems that first convert sunlight to heat before using the heat to generate electricity.

How Solar Panels Work: The Basics

Some solar electric systems will use batteries to store unused electricity.