Skip to content

How does solar energy work step by step

Solar energy is a great source of energy for humanity, one of the devices created to take advantage of the light that reaches us from the sun in a free, constant and unlimited way. You have wondered how solar energy works step by step.

Have you ever looked at rooftop solar panels and wondered exactly what they do and how? Well, those high-tech expanses of glowing glass are really just one component of a complex network that harnesses the sun’s renewable energy to deliver electricity to the home.

How does solar energy work step by step

Let’s take a look at how solar power works step by step.

How do solar panels generate electricity?

 

Step 1: SUNLIGHT ACTIVATES THE PANELS.

How does solar energy work step by step
Sierra Ridge Development, Isle Circle Parker, CO 80134
Mark Chapman 

Each individual panel is constructed of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass liner surrounded by a special film, and wiring. For maximum effect, the panels are grouped in “arrays” (an ordered series) and placed on rooftops or in large outdoor spaces. Solar cells, which are also known as  photovoltaic cells  , absorb sunlight during the day.  

Step 2: THE CELLS PRODUCE ELECTRICAL CURRENT.

How does solar energy work step by step
A 4″ silicon ingot and wafer used in the manufacture of computer chips or integrated circuits.

 

Inside each solar cell is a thin semiconductor wafer made from two layers of silicon. One layer has a positive charge and the other negative charge, forming an electric field. When light energy from the sun hits a photovoltaic solar cell, it energizes the cell and causes electrons to ‘loose’ from atoms within the semiconductor wafer. Those loose electrons are set in motion by the electric field surrounding the wafer, and this motion creates an electric current. 

 

Step  3: ELECTRICAL ENERGY IS CONVERTED.

inverter

You now have solar panels that work efficiently to transform sunlight into electricity, but the electricity generated is called direct current (or DC) electricity, which is not the type of electricity that powers most homes, which is alternating current (or AC) electricity. Fortunately, DC electricity can be easily converted to AC electricity using a device called an inverter. In modern solar systems, these inverters can be configured as a system-wide inverter or as individual micro-inverters connected behind the panels.

Step  4: THE CONVERTED ELECTRICITY POWERS YOUR HOME.

Once solar energy has been converted from DC to AC electricity, it runs through your electrical panel and is distributed throughout the home to power your appliances. It works exactly the same way as electrical power generated through the grid by your electric utility company, so nothing inside the home needs to change. Since you still remain connected to your traditional utility company, you can automatically draw additional electricity to supplement any solar shortages on the grid.

 

Step  5: A NET METER MEASURES USAGE.

METER
Residential Electric Digital Meter

 

On cloudy days and at night,  solar tiles  or panels may not be able to capture enough sunlight to use for energy; on the contrary, in the middle of the day, when no one is home, they can accumulate surplus energy, more than you need for the home. That’s why a meter is used to measure electricity flowing in both directions, to and from your home. Your electric utility company will often provide you with credits for any excess power you send to the grid. This is known as  net metering .

 

CONCLUSION

Now that you know the basics about solar energy, you can marvel at how today’s photovoltaic technology can harness the vast power of the sun to power a home. It may not be an occult science, but it definitely represents the best of human ingenuity.