We have the ability to harness solar power and convert it directly into electricity. However, the process that takes place in order to generate electricity using sunlight is not known by many people. Solar panels – devices that carry out this task – are the main component of any solar energy system. A brief understanding of what these solar panels do is a prerequisite to understanding how electricity is generated through sunlight.
Let’s talk about how a typical solar energy system for a home works. The working principle of the solar panels is the same for commercially generated electricity; the only difference is that once a solar power plant generates electricity, it feeds it to the power transmission grid.
Solar cells are typically small, square panels that are constructed using silicon or other materials that can conduct heat. Whenever sunlight hits a solar panel, chemical reactions take place that release electrons, thus generating electricity.
A number of solar cells combine to make a solar panel, and these solar cells are often referred to as photovoltaic cells (PV cells). PV cells can power something as small as a handheld calculator, or can be large enough to provide energy for a house or a business.
Components of a Photovoltaic (PV) System
A PV system has several components, including:
• PV Modules (solar panels)
• Batteries (one or more, depending on the requirement)
• A Charge Controller
• An Inverter (to convert DC to AC)
• Mounting Hardware
The solar panels are arranged on a rooftop in a way that they get sunlight for as long as possible throughout the course of the day.
How a Solar Energy System Works
- The process of electricity generation starts when solar energy hits the solar cells (on the solar panels) and is absorbed into the cell. Once these photons (from the sunlight) enter the cells, they activate electrons in the silicon layers.
- Once these electrons get into motion, electricity is generated and it starts to flow into the circuit consisting of other PV system components.
- Due to the fact that solar panels create DC (direct-current), and home appliances operate on AC (alternating current), an inverter is required to convert DC into AC.
- After the electricity has been converted into AC, it feeds the household circuitry, allowing you use your appliances.
Off Grid and On Grid
Off grid power systems are self-reliant and have no connection to your local utility company’s power grid. These systems rely on batteries to store energy for the night when there is no sunlight, during which time no electricity can be produced.
On grid systems, however, generally do not require batteries as they are connected to the utility company’s power grid. During the daytime, you can use the electricity generated by your solar power systems; at night, you can switch over to the utility grid with no problems whatsoever. Many power companies offer a rebate to those people whose solar systems feed excess power to the power grid.
The size of your solar power system generally depends on a number of factors, including:
- How much electricity is required
- How much hot water is used
- The size of your roof
- How much you can invest
The above factors will determine how large or small a solar energy system you need for your house or business.
A solar power system is neat and produces electricity without any emissions at all. It’s a great way to contribute towards a sustainable environment that is free from pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. With passing time, the cost per watt of electricity from solar systems is going down significantly, making it a more affordable choice for homeowners.