How solar panels produce electricity – the discovery
Have you ever asked yourself how solar panels produce electricity? We see solar panels on the roofs of all sorts of buildings these days but do we understand how they work?
It’s all down to something called the PV effect discovered in 1954.
Scientists working for Bell Telephone, discovered that silicon – an element of sand – when exposed to sunlight, produces an electrical charge.
The solar cell was born, also called photovoltaic (PV) cells. Traditionally these were made from silicone and were flat to be the most efficient at converting the sunlight into electricity. The process of converting photons (light) into electricity or voltage became known as the PV effect.
Solar cells were soon being utilised in space satellites, military equipment and everyday objects like calculators.
New Solar Power Technology
As with all technology, progress marched on relentlessly.
With one cell producing around 2 watts of power, cells were connected in chains to form large units known as modules or panels. These could be used standalone or placed together to form an array. The beauty of this was that any need could be catered for and tailored specifically. California, home to the two largest solar farms in America, produces over 1100 megawatts of power.
Solar cells are made of a variety of semiconductor materials, in various shapes and dimensions. Due to them being wafer thin they are contained within protective materials such as glass so that they can survive the elements.
Panels are just one component of a PV system. They must be mounted and directed towards the most efficient sun collecting angle. Other components must then take the direct current and convert it to alternating current – DC to AC – where it can then be used as an alternative source of electric power.
Can you use solar power at night?
Yes, you can.
Now that new innovations in battery storage have been realised, energy you have harvested can be used for your domestic needs during the evening.
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