How Does a Solar Power System Work?

Jessica PirroJuly 8, 202012071

How Does a Solar Power System Work?

A solar power system is made up of a few different parts. There’s the solar panels, solar inverter, and depending on personal preference you can add a solar battery to store the excess solar power that your solar panel installation generates. Before you get a solar panel installation you may want to know how each aspect of your solar panel installation is going to work.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

To understand how solar panels work, you need to understand how photovoltaic cells work. The way that photovoltaic cells work was discovered back in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel. During Becquerel’s research, he found that certain materials would emit solar power after the sunlight would hit them. In the late 1800s, the first photovoltaic cells were made of selenium. But in the 1950s, Bell Labs began to revisit the photovoltaic cell technology. This is when Scientists started using silicon to make photovoltaic cells, and the photovoltaic cells can convert 4% of the sun’s energy directly into solar electricity. 

Solar Panel Deep Dive

So now that you understand a little bit about how photovoltaic cells, we are going to dig a little bit deeper when it comes to how photovoltaic cells and solar panels work. The most vital part of the photovoltaic cells is going to be the two layers of the semiconductor material, which is commonly made up of silicon crystals. Alone, these silicon crystals will not be a good generator of solar power. However, if you add impurities, this is going to be called doping, and it will set the stage for creating an electrical current.

The last layer of the photovoltaic cells will usually be doped with boron, the will then bond with the silicon to facilitate a positive charge (P), then the top layer will be doped with phosphor, which will then bind to the silicon and this will create a negative charge (N).

Now, when the sunlight hits the photovoltaic cells, the sun’s solar energy then knocks electrons loose in both layers. Both of the layers will have an opposite charge, and because of this, the electrons are going to want to flow from the layer that will have a negative charge to the layer that has a positive charge. But this electric field that is at the P-N junction is going to stop this from happening.

But this electrical circuit will provide the required path for the n-type to the p-type layer. The electrons that move through the circuit (this will typically be through the wires that run along the top of the n-type layer) are what creates the solar power.

Most solar panel installations are going to be based on the individual photovoltaic cells, which are normally a few inches on each side. A single photovoltaic cell is going to generate a little bit of solar power, this is why they are grouped on solar panels, the solar panels will either be used individually or grouped as a solar panel installation.

How Do Solar Inverters Work?

A solar inverter is going to be just as vital to your solar power system as the solar panels. With the solar inverter, the solar power that is generated by the solar panels is unusable. Why? Because the solar power that is generated by the solar panels is going to be Direct Current (DC) power and your home runs on Alternating Current (AC). The DC solar power flows in one direction in the circuit and it helps to provide an electrical current when there isn’t any electricity. The DC solar power itself can be used for smaller appliances like iPods, where the power is stored in a battery. But the AC is the power that will supply the back and forth inside the circuit. But in most cases, the AC solar power is going to be used for the whole house and the household appliances.

So when the sun hits the solar panels, the electrons in the photovoltaic cells will start to move around, creating the DC solar power. The circuits within the photovoltaic cells are then going to collect the solar power to run your home.

This is where the solar inverter comes into play. The majority of homes that are using AC power, not DC, which is why the solar power that is going to be produced by the solar panels, deeming the solar power that it generates, sort of useless. But when the solar panels collect the sunlight and convert it into solar power, it gets then is sent to the solar inverter, which will then take the DC solar power and convert it into AC solar power. Once it is converted, the solar power can power your appliances and electronics and if your solar power system can be fed back to the grid.

How Can You Store Solar Power From Panels?

Now say you want to store solar power from your panels for later use, instead of sending the excess solar power that your solar panel installation is generating back to the grid, you can add a solar battery to your solar power system. A solar battery is going to maximize a homeowner's ability to use the solar power that their solar panel installation generates on a day to day basis. When you need more electricity than your solar panels are generating, you can use the solar power that is stored in your solar battery.

You can also use the solar battery if you want to go completely independent of the grid, or you can still be connected to the grid and just have the solar battery for backup power just in case.

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