How Do Solar Panels Work?

How Do Solar Panels Work?

The development of solar energy goes back more than 100 years. In the early days, solar energy was used primarily for the production of steam which could then be used to drive machinery. The use of Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. Not only is the energy source renewable and never-ending, the costs of switching to Solar energy are getting more and more affordable – in fact, it is cheaper to be using Solar energy rather than normal electricity off the grid. What could be greater than that; not only are you saving the environment, you’re saving money while doing so – a complete win-win situation. Yet, a question that usually arises in the minds of people before switching to solar energy completely is, how exactly do these solar panels work? Here’s your answer:

What is Solar Panel?

A Short History of Solar Panels:

The development of solar energy goes back more than 100 years. In the early days, solar energy was used primarily for the production of steam which could then be used to drive machinery. But it wasn’t until the discovery of the “photovoltaic effect” by Edmond Becquerel that would allow the conversion of sunlight solar electric energy. Becquerel’s discovery then led to the invention in 1893 by Charles Fritts of the first genuine solar cell which was formed by coating sheets of selenium with a thin layer of gold. And from this humble beginning would arise the device we know today as the solar panel.

Russel Ohl, an American inventor on the payroll of Bell Laboratories, patented the world’s first silicon solar cell in 1941. Ohl’s invention led to the production of the first solar panel in 1954 by the same company. Solar panels found their first mainstream use in space satellites. For most people, the first solar panel in their life was probably embedded in their new calculator – circa the 1970s!

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels absorb energy from sunlight through the presence of photovoltaic (PV) cells present in them. These PV cells are placed underneath layers of semi-conducting materials. Each layer possesses different ways to energize through the photons they receive from the sun. These PV cells create a Direct Current (DC) which is then converted into alternating current (AC) through the use of inverter technology. This created AC energy then passes through the electrical panel installed in your home or building and is distributed as per the needs of energy.

solar energy | Trilect Solar

How do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?

A Solar Panel, which you can get from Trilect Solar, has a layer inside of it which is made up of Silicon cells. Due to the various other parts of the panel including the metal frame and different sets of wiring, energy can be passed on from these non-nonconductive cells. These Silicon cells simply absorb the energy from sunlight and when this happens, a motion begins in the cells which allow for current to flow from them.

This is the concept often referred to as the “Photovoltaic effect”, which we have mentioned above. These cells act in the way they do due to the characteristics they possess as being semi-conductors. Semi-conductors are able to spark an electric current into them when they are brought into contact with the source of energy – in this case, the sun and its light. Apart from these cells, the Solar panels also have a glass casing which further protects the Photovoltaic cells. The glass has further sheets for insulation present which act as protectors against the dissipation of heat and humidity which may have otherwise escaped the panel, had they not been present.

Insulation is necessary for the panel to work because it helps the temperature to remain constant and not rise. If the temperature of the panel rose with the amount of direct sunlight its absorbed, its efficiency would decline greatly. Solar panels also have an anti-reflective coating on them to allow for greater absorption of sunlight. This makes it possible for silicon solar cells to receive maximum exposure to sunlight.


Benefits of Solar Panels

Using solar panels is a very practical way to produce electricity for many applications. The obvious would have to be off-grid living. Living off-grid means living in a location that is not serviced by the main electric utility grid. Remote homes and cabins benefit nicely from solar power systems. No longer is it necessary to pay huge fees for the installation of electric utility poles and cabling from the nearest main grid access point. A solar electric system is potentially less expensive and can provide power for upwards of three decades if properly maintained.

Besides the fact that solar panels make it possible to live off-grid, perhaps the greatest benefit that you would enjoy from the use of solar power is that it is both a clean and a renewable source of energy. With the advent of global climate change, it has become more important that we do whatever we can to reduce the pressure on our atmosphere from the emission of greenhouse gases. Solar panels have no moving parts and require little maintenance. They are ruggedly built and last for decades when properly maintained.

Last, but not least, of the benefits of solar panels and solar power is that, once a system has paid for its initial installation costs, the electricity it produces for the remainder of the system’s lifespan, which could be as much as 15-20 years depending on the quality of the system, is absolutely free! For grid-tie solar power system owners, the benefits begin from the moment the system comes online, potentially eliminating monthly electric bills or, and this is the best part, actually earning the system’s owner additional income from the electric company. How? If you use less power than your solar electric system produces, that excess power can be sold, sometimes at a premium, to your electric utility company!

Solar energy use is the responsible way to generate electricity for your home or office and to further consume it up to your requirements. If you wish to switch to Solar energy soon, Trilect Solar is the answer for you – contact us now!


Trilect Solar is a division of Trilect Services, New Zealand’s master electrician since 1997.

We are members of the Sustainable Energy Association of New Zealand (SEANZ) which offers additional peace of mind to our customers.

Trilect Electrical Services is a large electrical service company which is a member of the Master Electricians & Mastercraft network with 40 employees and a 20+ years history of customer satisfaction.

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