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How Residential Solar Panels Generate Electricity

The Earth receives 10,000 times more power from the sun than the planet’s population even uses. You may know that residential solar panels utilize this power (although just a fraction) and convert it into clean energy to power your home. But do you know exactly how it works?

It Starts With a Solar Cell

A solar cell is what actually generates power within your solar panel and many of these cells strung together make up a panel. The key to energy production in the cells are two layers of silicon. These layers are an N-type and P-type silicon. The N-type contains extra electrons while the P-type has extra empty spaces for electrons. Silicon is utilized because it is a semiconductor and, therefore, can transmit electricity under the right conditions. The sun creates these conditions.

Then, The Sun

As we know, light is actually made up of particles called photons. With enough force, photons knock the electrons free of their atoms, resulting in an extra space for an electron called a hole. The electrons are always attracted to one side (the N-side) while the holes are attracted to the other (the P-side), resulting in a current forming.

Finally, Electricity!

Electrons then travel through pieces of metal at the top of the cell and through an inverter. In the inverter, electrons are transformed from a direct current to an alternating current. In other words, it is turned into electricity that can power your home.

The really cool thing is once the electrons have gone through the circuit and power your home, they return to the cell and fill the holes. That’s what makes this type of energy production so sustainable: no byproducts are created and nothing is wasted in the process.

In summary,

  1. Solar cells are created with layers of silicon, one of which has extra electrons while the other has extra spaces for electrons.
  2. Photons, the particles that make up sunlight, knock electrons out of their bonds.
  3. The electrons flow to one side while the spaces or holes flow to another creating an electric current.
  4. Pieces of metal pick up and carry the electrons through an inverter where they are converted into energy that can power your home.
  5. Electrons used to power your home return to the cell where the process takes place all over again.

Realize the Power of Solar Panels for Yourself!

At the end of the day, the process is not as complex as it may seem. EnergySage puts it best when they conclude, “In short, solar panels generate electricity when particles of sunlight put electrons in motion.” And with solar generated energy comes major benefits for you and the environment. Talk with a solar contractor near you to learn more about how solar panels can work for you or calculate your estimated savings.

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