Solar panels are mainstay on many roofs around the world. Even if it’s just for heating up the pool, people understand that diversifying electricity sources is important to help wean ourselves off of coal-powered electricity generation. But how exactly do solar panels take the sun’s rays and turn them into power? Here is a quick breakdown.
According to Energy Sage, there are four steps.
- Photovoltaic cells absorb the sun’s energy and convert it to DC (direct current) electricity.
- In the solar panels, a solar inverter converts the DC electricity to AC (alternating current) electricity, the kind used in our homes.
- This electricity flows through the home to power devices or fed directly to the grid.
- Excess electricity is fed into the electrical grid.
For a more scientific explanation, according to Live Science photovoltaic cells are sandwiched between silicon and they establish an electric field. To get this field, manufacturers “dope” silicon with other materials, giving each slice of the sandwich a positive or negative electrical charge.
The top layer gets phosphorous which adds extra electrons, making a negative charge. The bottom layer gets a dose of boron, which results in fewer electrons, or a positive charge. A photon of light then knocks an electron free, and the electric field pushes the electron out of the silicon sandwich. Other components in the panel convert these electrons into power and run them through to create the electrical current in our homes.