In recent years, the cost of generating solar energy has dropped significantly. This has only been made possible through improved technical efficiency and manufacturing. Due to this, many business owners and domestic customers are starting to consider solar power as a real alternative to traditional energy generation methods. Renewable energy research and development has increased by a large order of magnitude over the past two decades. This has meant that more and more consumers are looking for new solutions in the energy sector. In this guide, we’ll provide a quick breakdown on how solar panels actually work, giving you all the essential information you need before considering this green alternative.
While solar panels are a great way to cut the costs of electricity for any commercial premises. To gain the maximum benefit and save as much as possible, you’ll want to compare a range of business energy suppliers. Sites like Utility Saving Expert allow you to compare tariffs from leading energy providers in minutes, helping you easily find the most competitive deal in minutes.
Solar cells are normally created from silicon, which is a semiconductor and can generate electricity. This process is known as the photovoltaic effect.
Solar panels use photovoltaic cells to absorb sunlight, this generates direct current (DC) energy. This is then converted to an alternating current (AC) energy, made possible with the assistance of inverter technology. AC power will flow through a business premises or home’s electrical panel and is distributed to where it is required. Here’s a step by step breakdown of how the process works.
- Photovoltaic cells will absorb energy from the sun which is then converted to DC electricity.
- A solar inverter converts this DC electricity from the solar module to AC electricity. The power is then directed to the business or home’s energy system and distributed accordingly.
- Electricity will now flow around the commercial property or home to provide power.
- Any excess electricity produced from the solar panels will be fed back to the National Grid, depending on what scheme you’re on, you may be paid for this.
How is electricity generated through the use of solar panels?
A standard solar panel, commonly referred to as a solar module includes a layer of silicon cells, glass casing, a metal frame and a range of wires that allow current to flow. Silicon is a non-metal and has conductive properties. These properties allow it to absorb and convert light from the sun into electricity. Electrons will be set in motion, once light interfaces with the silicon cell. This is what is known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’ in the technology used by solar panels.
Here’s a breakdown of how the photovoltaic process takes place:
- Solar radiation is absorbed by a silicon photovoltaic solar cell.
- A flow of electric current is created as electrons move once the sun’s rays interact with the silicon cell.
- Wires are used to capture and feed this direct current electricity to a solar inverter which is then converted to alternating current electricity.
What about the grid connection with solar panels?
Electricity generation through solar panels can be explained to consumers, however, there is still some confusion surrounding how the National Grid factors into all of this.
Any business premises or home that is connected to the National Grid will include a utility meter. This is used by an energy supplier to measure and provide power to your building. Any solar panels that are installed on your roof or in another location will at some point be connected to the business or home’s utility meter. The production of your solar system will now be able to be accessed and measured by this meter.
One of the biggest roadblocks that is on the mind of many consumers who are interested in solar power technology is timing and weather. You may be asking yourself what happens when it’s night time or there are adverse weather conditions. Fortunately, this has now been resolved through the use and installation of an energy storage system. These storage systems can store energy generated in the day which can later be used at night. It’s also worth noting that newer solar panels can still generate electricity even without direct sunlight. Additionally, the cost of solar power has decreased by more than 70 percent in the last decade, and is only becoming more efficient through new research and development.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a good understanding on how solar panels operate and the technology used behind them. Many businesses and home owners are increasingly considering making the switch. However, for most the biggest barrier to entry will likely be cost. The initial cost can still be quite expensive, and may only be worth it if you’re planning on staying in the same home or commercial premises over a number of years to save what you’ve invested.