31 May How Does A Solar Panel Work?
Amongst many spectacular innovations of science, solar panels are one of them. They are literally some strategically made expensive plates of silicon that is able to produce electricity if you feed some sunlight to it. This might not be a very accurate representation, but this is basically how a solar panel works.
However, if you insist on knowing exactly how does a solar panel work, this article is for you. Solar panels are much simpler than you would think. They are able to provide you with years’ worth of electricity that comes from a sustainable source, which is the sun, and none of this process harms mother nature, unlike the unsustainable energy sources. Let’s dive a little deeper into the topic.
How Does A Solar Panel Work?
What is Solar Power?
Sun is the most plentiful source of energy we have. It’s a 4.6 billion years old star filled with hydrogen and helium gas, that is shining bright on earth and the entire solar system. The sun is the source of renewable energy that is not going to run out any time soon and the best part? We can use it without releasing any greenhouse gas that is potentially harmful to our planet, so harmful that it can pose a threat to our entire existence.
In an hour and a half, the amount of sunshine that reaches the earth’s surface is enough to feed the entire world’s electricity usage for a year; the sunlight is that powerful. Although we have not reached to the point where we can take advantage of this powerful source to the fullest, however, slowly but surely, we are getting nearby.
Fun fact- Australia has the largest levels of solar irradiance of any continent in the entire world. So, all Australian residents should better take advantage of this wonderful gift of nature.
How Does A Solar Panel Produce Electricity?
As aforementioned, solar panels are expensive plates of silicon, a popular semi-conductor. To be more accurate, silicon collected from a single ingot or multiple is laid out on a plate of glass and framed in aluminum to secure it, and pretty much this contraption is called a solar panel.
Why silicon out of all things? Silicon’s exceptional electrical, optical, thermal, and environmental qualities make it ideal for developing solar cells. It’s also more suitable for solar panels because of its accessibility and price. Furthermore, its light-absorbing efficiency and capacity to withstand any weather condition make it a good candidate for usage as a photovoltaic cell raw material.
A photovoltaic effect is responsible for the production of electricity. The photons, which is basically sunlight, have energy; in fact, they have enough energy to break the bond of an electron to its nucleus. So, when sunlight hits the silicon cells of a solar panel, it causes the electrons in silicon to set in motion; this motion, later on, initiates a flow of electric current. Allow me to elaborate. Silicon is a semiconductor; when we peak into its cellular level, we see that there are 2 sides of a semi-conductor, known as the p-type and an n-type region, separated from each other. The N-type region has a lot of electrons, and the P-type region has a lot of holes. By the rules of nature, each of the sides demonstrates a desire to be similar in hole and electron numbers, and that is what we take advantage of.
The flow of electrons is known as electricity, and in the p-n junction, which is our semi-conductor has this flow of electrons going on when it’s doped or exposed to sunlight. When these solar cells are aligned into a solar panel and wired correctly to catch the flow of the electrons in the right manner, that is when we get electricity from the solar panels. But it is not yet usable because this electricity is in the form of Direct Current AKA DC electricity. It has to be fed through an inverter to convert the DC current to AC (Alternating Current) current; only then you can use this electricity around the household.
And that is how a solar panel produce electricity. Well, there is still a lot left unsaid, but to explain things simply, this is pretty much the basics of a solar panel.
Different Types of Solar Panels
There are types of solar panels, out of which there are two generic types on the basis of which usually solar panels are defined and differentiated in the solar energy industry. Number one is monocrystalline, and two, polycrystalline solar panels.
A monocrystalline panel is made out of mono, AKA a single silicon ingot. To make solar cells for monocrystalline solar panels, silicon is formed into bars and cut into wafers. As this type of solar panels are made out of a single crystal or ingot of silicon, it is proven to be more efficient, and it even serves the aesthetic purposes of a solar panel. It has a sleek black look to it which looks spectacular on the rooftop. Companies like Canadian Solar, SunPower, and LG produce top-notch monocrystalline solar panels, which are readily available worldwide.
Instead of a single crystal of silicon, manufacturers melt silicon from different ingots and put them together into a polycrystalline solar cell. As this one does not have an uninterrupted single ingot of silicon, this does not have the luxury to allow its electrons to move more freely. As a result, it is not as efficient as the monocrystalline solar panels. However, it’s not all negative with the polycrystalline panels, there is a positive aspect to it as well. These panels tend to be a lot cheaper than the monocrystalline panels. Trina Solar, LONGi Solar and so on are the companies that manufactures and distributes outstanding polycrystalline panels around the globe.
Why is The Solar Panel Considered to Be A Renewable Source of Energy?
Because solar panels don’t need anything else to produce electricity other than the sunlight, and without a doubt, sunlight is such an energy that is not going away anytime soon. What does the term renewable mean? It means that whatever that it is we are labelling as renewable can be used over and over again without having to worry about it decreasing in amount/size/number. Renewable energy comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished, and the sun is a massive gas sphere where there is a constant nuclear fusion happening, which makes it almost everlasting. And this is exactly why solar panels are considered to be a renewable source of energy.
How Does Radiation from the Sun Affect the Solar Panel efficiency?
The findings reveal that solar radiation and output current, as well as efficiency, are directly proportional. This means that as solar radiation increases, the output current increases, improving the efficiency (performance) of a solar panel. However, the increased radiation or intense sunlight can shoot up the temperature of the solar panels, and solar panels don’t work quite well when it gets heated beyond its preferred temperature.
The optimum temperature for a solar panel to work at its peak efficiency is 25-degree-Celcius. If your cap keeps your panels at this temperature, then they will be able to produce the most amount of electricity they are capable of, considering the sunlight is shining directly at the solar panels. Your solar panels typically let you know what its temperature coefficient is. The temperature coefficient is the value by which the efficiency of your panels decreases if the temperature rises a degree above the optimal temperature, which is 25-degree Celsius. A highly efficient solar panel will have a low-temperature coefficient, while a not so efficient one will have a higher temperature coefficient.
Advantages of Having a Solar PV System
There are so many advantages of having a solar PV system. They are as follows-
You Get to Enjoy Reduced Electricity Bills
What makes solar energy so amazing and desirable? Electricity pretty much becomes free! You see, once you install the solar panels, you are generating power from the sunlight. Now, do you need to pay for using sunlight? Nope! So, it’s pretty much a free source of energy that is going to be there for you for at least 25 years. Notice that, I wrote, you would get to enjoy reduced electricity bills;
it’s not going to be entirely free; although, sunlight is free. How does that work? Well, there is a huge upfront cost that you have to pay for the solar system, and then when you reach the break-even point, only then the electricity is free. And of course, for the days when the sunlight won’t be sufficient for your needs of electricity, you will have to use power from the grid.
It’s a Renewable Source
Any electricity that you have used from the grid has a massive chance of being produced from a non-renewable source like coal, oil, carbon-based fossil fuels etc. these non-renewable sources are not abundant in nature. The more we use it, the lesser in amount we have these natural resource left, and at one point, there will be no natural resource to live off of.
However, there is no end to sunlight. No matter how much sunlight you convert into electricity, it is not going to run out. Thus, it is renewable and pretty much always going to be there.
You Get to Live a Green Life
Energy from non-renewable sources is extracted by burning it. And by burning it, we produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gas which increases the temperature of the earth; thus, it causes global warming and destroys the ozone layer that is protecting us from the harmful UV rays that get emitted from the sun.
Expanding the use of renewable energy and transforming our energy system to one that is cleaner and less dependent on coal and other fossil fuels is the only way that we can help our planet. Thus, if we choose to adapt and use renewable energy sources like the sun, we are helping our planet to remain cooler, and in the long run, we are sustaining the humanity.
Drawbacks of Solar Panel
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns; solar panels also have some minor inconveniences to them. Those are as follows-
It is Costly
Yes, solar panels can set you back by thousands of dollars at one go. Also, depending on what brand, what type and how many panels you choose to go for, your cost will add up. However, in the long run, you will actually be saving a lot of money by reducing your electricity bills. It may be a huge upfront cost, but you will be using these panels for at least 25 years or more.
The Weather Decides How Much Electricity You Get
If the weather is gloomy, the efficiency rate of your solar panels can drastically dropdown. This is a major drawback of solar panels. The most efficient solar panel in existence that is used for residential purposes is SunPower which is only 22.6% efficient. It is by no means a bad number, but the efficiency can drop down further if your panels don’t get ample sunlight. It can happen due to bad weather, shading issues and so on.
However, there is a remedy to it. When the sun shines bright, you can store some energy in a battery unit for the rainy days, considering you don’t want to use power from the grid. But you should also be aware that a battery unit can break your bank; they are quite expensive.
Why Hasn’t Solar Power Caught on Yet?
First of all, not every house everywhere is a good place to install solar panels. On top of that, the sun doesn’t shine sunlight equally around the globe. And don’t forget the price tag, solar system is not cheap, and not everyone has the affordability to have and maintain solar panels.
But if we keep these obvious concerns aside, there are still some resistances left for which solar power has not caught on yet. The corporate giants who dominate the energy supply have a huge impact on this matter. Obviously, if people suddenly start switching to solar, their business will face huge losses, and that is why it is not in the best interest of the energy retailers to let solar panels catch on like a wildfire.
But mostly because of the mere cost and lesser comparative efficiency, solar panels are yet not hugely popular.
To sum things up, solar panels are amazing devices that have the potential to replace traditional sources of energy, and it is going to happen now or in the near future. I hope with this article on how does a solar panel work; you are now able to better understand the basics of a solar panel. If you are intrigued and want to know more about it so that you can install one for your rooftop, then without any hesitance, reach out to Cyanergy. We are more than happy to help.