Renewable Energy – How Do Solar Panels Work?


June 20th, 2019   |   Updated on July 6th, 2022

As the popularity of solar panels keeps on growing, whether it’s a new addition to your neighbor’s house or one of many solar panel farms, people start wondering how they actually work.

We all know they somehow turn sunlight into electrical power but the actual process eludes us. As solar panels are gradually becoming more and more present in households, it’s time we identify how this renewable energy is powers our homes.

1. What Is A Solar Panel?


A solar panel is actually a group of photovoltaic cells which can convert light into electricity. When we combine several solar panels into a large grid and mount it on a roof of our homes, that’s when we have a solar array, and that solar array has a longer capacity.

The solar cells which make up a panel act as semiconductors, as they are made of silicon. They have both a positive and a negative layer, creating an electric field – just like what happens with a battery.

2. Benefits Of Installing Solar Panels

Solar panels are beneficial for a household for several reasons. First of all, they have a positive impact on the environment. Other energy sources affect much more negatively on the environment because they produce greenhouse gases and pollute water.

Solar panels also don’t need a lot of maintenance when it comes to the amount of water it uses and they are also very quiet. They are easy to maintain and protect your roof from weather conditions.

Of course, another big advantage is that you’ll be paying much less for the electricity bill as you’ll generate your own electricity. You can even sell some of the unused electricity back to the grid.

3. How Solar Panels Really Work


Let’s start with the easiest and quickest solution and then we can analyze each of the stages.

When the sunlight hits the solar panels, they convert that energy to DC current.

The current then flows to the inverter, whose role is to convert that DC current to AC. After the electricity has been converted, you use it to power your home.

On the days when you’re not at home or when it’s night, you can still benefit thanks to the “net metering” system. The excess energy is fed back to the grid, which you can use later on whenever you’re at home or if it’s a cloudy day.

The First Step – Solar Panels Generate Electricity

As said, solar panels generate DC (direct current) from the sunlight. With this type of electricity, electrons flow in one direction through a circuit, from the negative side and then they turn to the positive side (this is what happens when a battery powers a light bulb).

On the other hand, electrons in AC (alternating current) are pushed and pulled. This means they reverse their direction periodically. This type of electricity is used in almost all countries because it’s cheaper to transmit over long distances.

Throughout the world, electrical contractors in Wodonga, Sydney, New York or Berlin mostly work with this type but they know the importance of the inverter when it comes to solar panels.

Step Two – Using The Inverter

As every household uses AC electricity, it’s logical that we somehow need to convert DC electricity in the panels to AC. The solar inverter acts as the system’s brain – not only does it convert DC to AC power but it also enables ground fault protection and controls energy production.

The solar industry has been using central inverters from the very start. However, the invention of micro-inverters has changed the game. They are able to optimize every solar panel individually, not just the whole system. This enables maximum benefits.

If the central inverter is used, it means that a problem with one solar panel means decreased performance for the whole grid. This is not an issue with micro-inverters – the rest of the solar panels will work perfectly even though one is malfunctioning.

Final comment

Renewable energy has become highly important not just for different industries but also for individual households. Solar panels are the most frequently used types of renewable energy sources.

As such, the way they function needs to be understood for the people to truly realize their potential to bring many advantages to a household.

The initial expense might be high, but the benefits of its installation are many. The more you understand how solar panels work, the clearer you’ll see how it can help you in terms of finances and healthier living.