What are solar panels, how do they work and what is their future?

A single hour of sunshine would be enough to supply the energy demands of humanity for an entire year. The statement is not exaggerated and explains better than any graph would, the importance of the human being being able, through different processes, to convert what the sun gives into electrical energy. The solar energy as an alternative future for humanity.

What are solar panels, how do they work and what is their future?

But how does this almost miraculous process take place? Through two simple installations: the solar installations of panels photovoltaic (better known as solar plates or panels) and thermal. Both are different and are made up of different teams.

To fully understand what these photovoltaic panels are, it is best to go back a few years (even some century). “We talk about a 21st century energy, although it was actually discovered at the end of the 19th century. And it was during the 20th century when it began to develop,” Carlos Montoya, head of the Solar Department of the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE), attached to the Ministry for Ecological Transformation and the Demographic Challenge. “In 1920, Albert Einstein already discovered the photovoltaic effect and for that he won the Nobel a year later”.

How does this effect work? It is a physical phenomenon that consists of the emission of photoelectrons by a material when it receives light energy. “This phenomenon enables let’s exploit solar energy to produce electricity”, says Íñigo Ramírez González, a researcher in photovoltaic solar energy at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

Knowing this concept, it is now important to explain what a photovoltaic solar installation. It is a rectangular structure with a basic unit of transformation that is the solar cell and that measures approximately 10 square centimeters. A panel unites several of these cells on a plate, which are covered with a plastic called EVA. It is a type of polyethylene made up of several compounds (ethylene and vinyl acetate) that is one of the great allies of the photovoltaic industry. Why? because this polymer can withstand extreme conditions and temperatures and, in addition, it allows light to pass through, but not ultraviolet rays, which are more harmful to the skin.

A solar panel is made up of about 60 cells, although this size varies according to the manufacturers, and its thickness is around four centimeters. Íñigo Ramírez points out: “The energy they produce is direct current and we use alternating current in our homes, so the panels also have an essential element that is the inverter, capable of transforming the current so that we can use that energy.”

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