When discussing alternative energy, most people think of wind turbines, solar panels, and other exotic devices. But the reality is that alternative energy also exists as a more fundamental concept: solar energy.
After all, just like with wind and tides, there is already an abundance of sunlight on our planet.
And while solar panels might not seem like such a big deal at first glance, they are a very important step towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and making alternative energy accessible to everyone.
How Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels are devices that use solar energy to generate clean electricity. They’re made of many interconnected solar cells made from silicon, semiconducting materials that can absorb photons and generate electrons.
This is done by connecting the solar cells in series and connecting them to an inverter that converts the DC current from the solar cells to AC current for use in the house.
Because solar cells are semiconductors, they need to be protected from the elements to operate appropriately. This is done by placing them in solar panels with a transparent covering.
Photovoltaic Effect Explained
Think of the sun as a giant light bulb.
This bulb has a lot of available energy inside it, which could be used to illuminate your house or run a car. But outside the bulb are clouds that contain water droplets.
When the sun shines on the water droplets, they get hot and emit lots of light, much like a regular light bulb. But unlike a standard light bulb, this light is inside the clouds and cannot shine.
Since there is no way to use this energy, it is wasted. The same goes for solar panels.
As this explanation shows, the photovoltaic effect is when light is the source for generating electricity.
Components of a Solar Panel
Solar panels come in many different shapes and sizes.
They might be flat or curved and can be made of materials like glass, plastic, or polycrystalline silicon.
They can be mounted on a roof, a pole, or a window — but they also come as integrated units that you can put on your own roof.
Most panels are just a few inches thick and look like a sheet of glass with a few tiny solar cells underneath. Each cell contains a little copper wire that gets heated up when the sun shines. This creates an electric current, which the panel uses to power a device.
How Solar Panels Generate Electricity
The tricky part about solar power is that it’s not just about collecting sunlight. It’s about using that sunlight to generate electricity. And this is what differentiates solar panels from other energy sources like natural gas or kerosene.
To do this, a solar panel uses the photovoltaic effect to convert light into electricity.
As we saw above, this happens when sunlight strikes a solar panel. And this can happen both on a panel mounted on a roof and one that you put on your own house.
Steps for Benerating Solar Electricity in your Home
To make solar panels work, they need to be connected to the electricity grid, which is why they are installed on rooftops or large open spaces — places exposed to a lot of sunlight.
If you want solar panels on your roof, explore options for a local solar installer. Once aware of what are your options, you can make a smarter decision for your home.
Solar panels are an important part of the transition towards a sustainable energy future. Not only do they provide clean power, but they can also be used to produce energy at home.
These panels are powerful, versatile, and flexible energy sources that can help to reduce your utility bills and carbon footprint.