How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?


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Written by Josh McFadden | Last Updated December 2nd, 2019
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It's remarkable how something just 18 square feet in size can accomplish so much.

In today's environmentally friendly, cost-conscious world, residents and businesses everywhere are ditching traditional power for their homes and places of work for the emerging solar power systems. The ingenious devices are capable of generating enough electricity to keep your appliances, electronics and other household items running all day long-and even through night.

Design and positioning

How panels work

So how do the sun's rays and solar panels on your roof combine to provide all the power you need? The answer is nothing magically; rather, it all happens due to design and science.

Most solar panels come in sizes 3 ½ feet by 5 ½ feet. They are typically in the 185-240 watt range. The panels are either photovoltaic or solar thermal. Within the panels are individual cells, each of which are made up of silicon-based semiconductors, placed in between a pair of electrical contacts. The semiconductors are positively charged on one side and negatively on the other. A glass sheet is placed over the panels to product them from environmental factors such as hail, rain, snow, wind, dust and dirt. In addition, there is also a special antireflective coating placed on the panels. This ensures that the rays are absorbed in the panels and not uselessly reflected from them.

Creating a current


When strategically placed in the direct sunlight-most effectively facing toward the south in a sloping manner-a greater amount of solar rays will hit the panels. Sunrays are composed of tiny particles called photons, and these absorbed photons will then use their energy to knock electrons loose from the atoms in the tightly packed semiconductors. Because the semiconductors are dual-charged, the loose electrons will begin to travel in the same direction, creating an electric current-a direct current to be specific.

Ready for your home

In order for the electric current to produce usable electricity for homes and businesses, the direct current (DC) must be converted into an alternating current (AC). This is achieved through the use of an inverter. This device will take the DC the panels created and change it into AC, ready for your home or business to power all your needs.

The Top Solar Companies

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#1 Sungevity chevron_right
9.8 Overall Score
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#2 Sunrun chevron_right
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