How do Solar Panels work?

How do solar panels work and what is solar power? You have heard the term, but you are unsure as to its meaning. You are vaguely aware that solar power has something to do with making energy from sunlight. But what is PV solar power? Is it different from other kinds of solar power?

PV solar power is different. Of the two main categories of solar power, active and passive, PV solar power is active. Let’s look at it.

How do solar panel work?

Active solar power relies on solar panels. You may picture them as flat, rectangular boxes on rooftops.

There are two main types of solar panels. From a distance, both look like rectangular boxes. Both convert sunlight into energy, but in two different ways. The terms for the two solar panel types are solar thermal collector and photovoltaic module.

1. Solar thermal collector: This solar panel takes in solar energy from the sun and uses it to heat air or water.

2. Photovoltaic module: This second type of solar panel collects solar energy and converts it to usable electricity.

What is PV solar power?

To answer the question, what is PV solar power, we must know what the PV is. PV refers to a photovoltaic module. “P” stands for photo and “V” for voltaic.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines “photovoltaic” this way:

“of, relating to, or utilizing the generation of a voltage when radiant energy falls on the boundary between dissimilar substances.”

In simpler terms, “photo” refers to sunlight and “voltaic” refers to electrical energy. PV panels convert sunlight into electrical energy. Sunlight flows into the solar panel. Electrical energy flows out of the solar panel.

A PV solar panel is made up of many photovoltaic (light to volts) cells. These cells are electrically connected, and then covered with glass. The glass provides electrical insulation. It also protects from weather and other damaging forces.

When minimal energy is needed, such as powering a small appliance, a single PV solar panel is sufficient. When more power is needed, an “array” of solar panels needs to be created by connecting panels to one another. If the power will not be supplied to the power grid, the solar panel(s) is connected to a charge controller and battery. If it is intended for on-grid use, the solar panel array will be connected to an electrical inverter.

PV solar power is solar energy in the form of sunlight, which has been collected by a photovoltaic module, and converted into usable electricity.

Conventional silicon solar panels only convert about 14 to 17 percent of sunlight into usable electricity. Late in 2006, however, a new solar cell was introduced. Solar panels that utilize the new cell can convert 22 percent of the sunlight they collect into electricity. Theoretically, the maximum that the cells of a solar panel can convert is said to be around 26 to 27 percent of incoming sunlight.

In depth information on how do solar panels work

Each photovoltaic cell in a PV solar panel is a semiconductor. When sunlight hits those cells, a certain part of the sunlight is absorbed by these silicon cells. The cells take in part of the sunlight’s energy. The cells then transfer the absorbed energy to the electrons in the silicon. The electrons begin to flow, and this creates an electrical current. Metal contacts built into the top and bottom of the PV cells draw off that current and it is sent to the grid or battery. It is now usable electricity. If you have used an on-grid connection the power grid sends it on its way. If you are using a battery, it is stored in the battery.

PV solar power is being used increasingly and with great success. And while it is true that cloudy weather can affect the production of usable energy, the cloudy country of Germany is world leader in the successful use of solar panels.

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