How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?
We might all be used to seeing fields of shimmering solar panels as the UK strives to become less reliant on fossil fuels and more reliant on harnessing the free energy provided by the sun.
Similarly, shiny black rooftops are now a familiar sight as more and more of us take control of our own electricity production by installing solar panels on our homes. But, how many of us know how solar panels actually work? Here at Generator Pro we are happy to illuminate you.
How Do Solar Panels Make Electricity?
The main component of solar panels is a layer of solar or photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight. These photovoltaic cells are sandwiched between one layer of positively charged silicon and another of negatively charged silicon.
The sun’s energy causes the freeing of electrons from the photovoltaic cells and the electrical field created by the positive and negatively charged silicon creates motion. The motion creates the electrical current.
The electrical current that has been generated is direct current or DC. In our homes, we use AC or alternating current. This means that an inverter must be used to convert the current into a usable form. Inverters are either small and attached to the back of each solar panel, or larger for all of the panels in the whole system.
Once it has been converted to AC, the electricity enters our homes through the electrical panel, just like normal electricity coming into the home. It is used in exactly the same way so there are no changes that need to be made. You can continue to use all the same appliances in the same way.
You stay connected to your power provider to ensure round-the-clock electricity; solar power obviously only works during the day. However, to enable you to store and later use power generated in sunlight hours you can purchase a storage battery either separately or with your solar panels as a complete kit.
How Much Electricity Do Solar Panels Generate?
The amount of electricity that solar panels generate depends on a few factors including:
- Size of panels.
- Number of panels.
- Solar panel capacity.
- Roof Angle.
- Weather conditions.
There are some basic equations you can do to work out the electrical output, in kilowatts, your solar panel generates.
For working out how many kilowatt-hours of electricity your panels will produce, multiply the size of your solar panel (in square meters) by 1000. Then multiply that number by the efficiency of 1 of your panels (as a decimal).and multiply that by the hours of sunlight in your area per day. Finally, divide that number by 1000. To change the figure to a monthly output, simply multiply the daily amount by 30.
Alternatively, you could use this handy solar calculator from the Centre for Alternative Technology.
What Are The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Using Solar Panels?
Advantages of Solar Panels at Home
- After set up costs solar panels provide free energy in daylight hours, or round-the-clock if used in conjunction with battery packs.
- Solar panels are safe, there’s no risk from toxic or hazardous material or by-products.
- They are maintenance-free, aside from occasional cleaning.
- Due to their rooftop position solar panels don’t take up room, once installed you can forget they are there.
- Solar panels are quiet, they won’t disturb you, or your neighbours.
Disadvantages of Solar Panels at Home
- The initial financial outlay for solar panels and complete off-grid kits which include inverters and batteries can be costly. Especially if you are looking for quality.
- For those looking to reduce their carbon footprint by choosing renewable energy, it will take around 3 years for the panels to become carbon neutral due to the energy used in their production.
- Although technically solar panels can be relocated if you move house it would be costly and time-consuming. There is also the possibility of damage and/or reduction in their effectiveness.
If you are considering making the switch to renewable energy by going solar then let us be your guide. Contact us at Generator Pro for expert advice as well as a great range of complete off-grid solar kits as well as individual solar panels.