How Solar Panels Work

solar panels

Getting some or all of your home’s energy from solar panels has never been more affordable. With tax credits and utility rebates, you can often see a return on your investment in six to 12 years.

Solar energy is clean and renewable, unlike fossil fuels that are limited in supply and emit harmful greenhouse gasses when burned. However, there are still challenges to the sustainability of solar technology, including the scarcity of raw materials used in manufacturing and the impact on the environment when panels are discarded at the end of their useful life. Learn more

A typical solar panel is comprised of a collection of silicon solar cells that generate electricity in a process known as the photovoltaic effect. Sunlight strikes the cells, causing electrons to be knocked out of their atomic orbits and released into the cell. A phosphorous layer infused with a negative charge and a boron layer with a positive charge attract these electrons, creating an electric current that can then be funneled to wiring in the panel for use.

Maximizing Your Investment: Tips for Choosing the Right Solar Panels

The electrical output from the solar panels is direct current (DC), but this needs to be converted to alternating current (AC) for use with most household appliances. This is done with an inverter.

Solar panels are typically mounted on a building roof, ideally on a south-facing slope that offers both aspect and tilt. Alternatively, they can be installed on a ground-mounted support frame or rack that allows them to track the sun as it moves across the sky during the day (single-axis trackers) and through the changing seasons (dual-axis trackers). Monitoring systems are also available to provide real-time performance information on an individual panel basis.

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