In the last few years, solar panels have really hit the mainstream. There are more solar panels for sale than there have ever been. But, do you know how solar panels work? We all know that they convert sunlight into electricity, but how does this really happen? Almost all of us have used calculators powered by solar panels. We know if we cover up the light that the calculator stops working. So what’s really taking place.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Solar cells are also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells. The word photo means “light” and the word voltaic means “electricity”. Put it together and you get light electricity.
Solar Cells are made from materials called semi-conductors. The most common are made of silicone, but we are also starting to see organic materials being used as well. When light hits the semi-conductor a portion of that light gets absorbed. This process discharges electrons. Using an electric field these electrons are forced to move in a cetain direction which gives them current. The amount of current with the amount of voltage (free electrons) determines how many watts the solar panel produces.
Medal conductors can then be attached to the solar panels to allow the electricity to be drawn from the panel to a place where it can be either used or stored.
So now that you know how solar panels work, what does it mean for you? It means you can recognize what’s important. As you can see, the more sunlight that a panel can absorb, the more free electrons you will have, and the more energy the solar panel will make. This is generally referred to as the solar panels efficiency. A solar panel that can absorb 20% of sunlight will make more electricity (produce more watts) than one that only absorbs 13%.
Currently the highest efficiency solar panels are being made out of silicone. The problem is that silicone is a limited resource and so is getting more and more expensive. In the last few years however, we are also seeing solar panels being made out of sustainable organic materials. These aren’t as efficient as the silicone solar panels, but they are relatively new and will improve over time.
Due to improved efficiencies and improved manufacturing processes, solar panels cost about a quarter of what they did just a couple of years ago.
If you check out the prices of solar panels for sale a long with discounts from the government, you may find that you can finally get rid of your energy bill.