How Do Solar Panels Work?

12 June 2024

As Solar PV installers, we are often asked by customers about how Solar Panels actually work.

Simply put, solar panels are cells that convert sunlight (solar energy) into electricity (electrical energy) for everyday use. 

But how do they work beneath the surface? What makes the electricity that we can use at work or at home on varying scales?  From charging small devices to powering entire warehouses?

Let’s start with how the solar panels are assembled. Solar Panels are made up as follows: 

  • Each panel is made up of smaller cells. Those smaller cells are made up of a semiconductor (usually silicon) in between conductor layers.
  • The silicon layer is made up of two types – n-type, which holds more electrons and p-type, which holds more spaces, or holes. 
  • When the two types of silicon connect, electrons jump from the n-type to the spaces in the p-type. This results in a positive charge being created on one side, and a negative charge on the other side. 

When sunlight hits the Solar Panels:

  • A particle of light, or a photon, hits the cell – an electron is displaced leaving a hole in its place.
  • An electron (negative charge) and a hole (positive charge) start to move around – the electrical field where the n-type and p-type silicon layers meet make the electron go to the n-side and the hole go to the p-side.
  • Once the electrons are on the move they are collected up by metal straws at the top of the cell
  • The electrons then flow into an electrical circuit, providing power where necessary, before returning to the cell

Each cell within a solar panel creates an output voltage of half a volt, which is why there are a large number of cells situated together within a panel. 

For this reason, there are several factors that determine how many solar panels are required to power your home or business: peak sun hours, daily electricity consumption and wattage of each panel all go into deciphering requirements. 

When we start to understand how solar panels work it becomes clearer how they are a more sustainable option for the environment around us and also how they are a cost effective energy source.

If you’re interested in introducing Solar Panels to your property, get in touch with our team to see how we can help you. Simply email us at MTS@mastertech.ie

To find out more about the workings of solar panels, watch an interesting TEDX video below.

See how we can help your business

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