Solar Panels – How Do They Work?

If you’ve ever wondered how solar panels actually work, don’t worry because we’re about to educate you on everything you need to know! Essentially, solar cells (also known as photovoltaic cells) work to convert energy from the sun into usable electricity. Solar panels contain silicon molecules as a main component because of it’s semi-conductor properties.

As you may have learned by watching “the magic school bus” as a kid, sunlight is made up of photons, tiny particles that radiate from the sun and the energy generated from photons striking the surface of the solar panel allows electrons to be knocked out of their orbits, released, and then electric fields in the solar cells pull these free electrons in a directional current, from which metal contacts in the solar cell can generate electricity.

However don’t stop reading this just yet, because setting those electrons free is only half of it! Something needs to make those electrons into a functioning electric current. There needs to be an electrical imbalance within the cell, which can act as a mini slide that the electrons can all move in the same direction and it’s because of the silicon that this imbalance is possible.

Silicon atoms are arranged together in a tightly bound structure. By squeezing small quantities of other elements into this structure, two different types of silicon are created: n-type, which has spare electrons, and p-type, which is missing electrons, leaving ‘holes’ in their place.

Whenever these two materials are placed side by side inside a solar cell, the “n-type” (the silicon’s spare electrons), jump over to fill the gaps in the “p-type” silicon. This then means that the n-type silicon becomes positively charged, and the p-type silicon is negatively charged, which creates an electric field across the cell. In addition, since silicon is a semi-conductor, it acts as an insulator, maintaining this imbalance.

As the photons kick the electrons off the silicon atoms, this field drives them along in an orderly manner, providing the electric current to power things like those dancing plants, calculators, satellites, garden lamps, etc.

Keep in mind that as wonderful as solar panels are due to their go green advantages, there are things that can affect their functionality. Factors that can affect solar energy are things like the weather and items that can obstruct the sunlight such as large trees, buildings that overshadow, etc.

If you would like more information about the cost and benefits of using solar panels, give us a call at 1.866.647.9931 or send us an email through our contact page!

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