This article will discuss everything you need to know about Solar Panels: How Does it Work.
Traditional power generation systems rely heavily on finite resources like coal and gasoline to simply run and generate energy.
These power plants typically burn these fuel sources, releasing heavy concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
Here’s a bit of good news, though: advances in technology have practically improved the efficiency of traditional power plants and reduce their greenhouse gas output.
The bad news, on the other hand, is that we are close to running out of these natural resources.
Conserving the use of non-renewable energy sources will only delay this inevitable consequence of decades of use.
It is thus not strange that many nations and individuals are now turning to renewable energy to fuel their electricity needs.
The sun is perhaps one of the most viable sources of renewable energy in this day and age.
It is a near-infinite power source with several billions of years more to last, and we have technology that effectively lets us tap into its power and convert it into much-needed electricity.
We are talking about solar power generators, and we certainly know what first comes to your mind upon its mention: solar panels.
Solar panels are the most iconic components of any solar power generator due mainly to the fact that it is the most visible part of such systems.
Alongside the wind turbine, it has practically become a symbol of renewable energy and a clean future where we no longer have to burn fuel to light our homes and keep our electricity-dependent conveniences running.
Video Tutorial on How Do Solar Panels Work
What are Solar Panels and How Does It Work?
For sure, a huge majority of the world’s population knows what a solar panel looks like.
A solar cell is simply what we laypeople call photo-voltaic (PV) modules.
Now, a photo-voltaic module is defined as a collection of photo-voltaic cells that are mounted on a rigid framework designed for installation to a solar power generation system.
These cells are made of crystalline or film material that absorbs energy from the sun.
As it is, each of these cells collects energy from the sun to trigger the photovoltaic effect which generates electricity.
According to Energy Education, the photovoltaic effect refers to a phenomenon where electric current and voltage are generated within a material upon its exposure to sunlight.
As soon as the photovoltaic material absorbs light from the sun, the electrons are excited and this makes them move from one atom to another in the cell, generating electricity in the process.
In the case of PV cells, sunlight is absorbed into the cells’ material and the resulting movement of electrons generates direct current (DC).
A single PV cell can only generate so much electricity, hence entire solar panels are used for this purpose.
In a solar panel, a wiring network captures the electricity produced by individual cells and combines the power to be sent to an inverter.
DC is not exactly the most versatile form of electricity out there and not all of your appliances can work with a single given DC voltage.
As such, the DC current created in the solar panel has to be passed to the inverter, which then converts it into the more useful alternating current (AC).
AC power is what flows into the local electrical network and is distributed accordingly to the devices and electrical components connected to the circuit.
In a household setting, not all of the electricity generated by the solar power generation system is used; often, the excess electrical output flows out to the larger electric grid.
Home solar power systems are often required to be connected to the household’s utility meter that connects your home to the electric grid.
This lets surplus solar energy production to flow back to the grid and improve the general area’s power supply.
As such, many authorities encourage the adoption of solar power as a home’s energy source.
In the United States, this is done through a net metering system that lets residents send back surplus solar power to the grid in exchange for credits.
The credits are then used to purchase power from the grid if the solar power generation does not meet the household’s energy demand.
What are the Advantages of Solar Panel?
- Solar panels do not burn fuel. As such, they do not give off greenhouse gases as they produce power for your home. Using solar energy is thus a very environmentally-friendly way to power your home.
- As it does not rely on mechanical components like turbines to generate electricity, a solar power system is practically noise-free. This makes solar power ideal in quiet neighborhoods or on recreational vehicles that need to comply with state regulations on noise levels if they need to set up camp on national parks and the like.
- Cheaper. This is most especially true since modern technological advances brought about by the increasing need for renewable energy have practically streamlined the production of solar panels, making it so much cheaper than it used to be a few decades back. On the other hand, solar panels and their associated components are still quite expensive and will probably require professional help to set up. This will require you to do plenty of pre-purchase research to make sure that you make the most bang out of your buck. For that matter, you will need to assess just how much power does your household need, compare different brands of the required equipment, and, when it comes to hiring professional installers, get multiple quotes to find one that gives the most value for the money that you are going to spend.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
The cost of a solar panel depends on the type of panel system you want to use.
According to Homeadvisor.com, “Installing a solar panel system costs an average of $23,597 and dropping.
Most homeowners pay between $16,532 and $30,820. Expect to pay $2.50 to $3.50 per watt with most systems in the 3kW to 10kW range.
Until the end of 2020, you can deduct 26% of the installation costs with the federal investment tax credit (ITC).“
What Are the 3 Types of Solar Panels?
Solar panels come in different shapes and sizes, but they are most commonly classified according to the following types:
This type of solar panel primarily features photovoltaic cells that are cut out of a single silicon crystal, lending it its name and its black hue.
These cells are arranged in several rows and columns to form a rectangular panel.
As this collection of panels are very brittle, they are protected with a tougher transparent glass covering and framed with metal or any other sturdy materials.
Monocrystalline panels are known to have the highest efficiency and more expensive among the other solar panel types in this list; its efficiency often hovers above 20% as it generates power that ranges from 300 W to 350 W.
This type is very similar to monocrystalline panels except for the fact that each of its cells is made of many silicon crystal fragments joined together by heat and cut into wafers.
As such, light interacts with each cell in a more complex manner, giving it a bluish color.
Polycrystalline panels typically have an efficiency that lies somewhere between 15% and 17% and tends to produce less power than monocrystalline panels of the same size at a given situation.
Its manufacturing process, however, makes it so much cheaper than the monocrystalline variant.
This is a very flexible type of solar panel, and it is often made of different types of materials, like Link Solar’s flexible thin film panels.
The most common of these are cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon (a-Si), and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).
CdTe is normally placed between transparent conducting layers to aid in solar energy collection and protected by a glass cover.
Meanwhile, a-Si thin-film panels are made of non-crystalline silicon that is overlaid on a flexible layer of glass, metal, or plastic.
Last but certainly not the least, CIGS panels have their primary material sandwiched between two flexible conductive layers; what makes this quite unique is the fact that there are electrodes placed on the back and the front of the material to allow for the collection of the generated electrical currents.
Thin-film solar panels have the lowest efficiencies in this batch at more or less 11%.
As they do not have uniform sizes, the power output of thin-film panels varies.
Furthermore, thin-film solar panels are cheaper than both of its crystalline brethren and can be bent into various shapes, making it a good fit for people who are tight on the budget but value aesthetic at the same time.
Checkout this great article about, “Flexible Solar Panels: 5 Things You Must Need to Know Before Buying“.
Going renewable sure is the way forward, but there are plenty of factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right solar panel for your solar power installation.
Your budget and your home’s energy demands both come first and foremost. Unless you are gunning for the surplus incentives, you simply would not want to spend a lot of money on solar panels that you cannot make the most use of.
You also would not want to choose to skimp on the budget and end up with a system that does not meet your energy needs.
In any case, you can avoid these mistakes by investing in the services of a professional solar panel installer with all the experience to get the work done without making you break your bank.