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How Solar Energy Works: Understanding the Science Behind It

Most people know that solar photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into usable electricity, ideal for powering the electric system at home.

But do you know how it actually works? First, the sunlight is transformed into direct current (DC), which is then converted into alternating current (AC). This alternating current (AC) is the most common type used in households for almost all equipment and appliances.

When fully converted, the AC is drawn by the appliances from the switchboard, which receives electricity from your solar array. Additionally, the unused electricity is stored in a grid from which the building draws the electricity when required.

In this article, we will walk you through the technical aspects of solar energy and the science behind it.

Solar Energy Production and Transmission: Basic Steps

solar panels on house

Step 1

Sunlight hits the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and helps them create an electric field – this initiates solar energy production and the adequate flow of electricity.

Step 2

All the electricity generated in the above step then flows to the edge of each panel, where a conductive wire helps the electricity freely flow during transmission.

Step 3

The conductive wire then brings the electricity to the inverter, where DC is transformed into AC, which is directly used by your home to power the appliances.

Step 4

This AC is transported via another wire from the inverter to your home’s electrical panel (or switchboard). From here, the electricity is distributed evenly throughout the building.

Step 5

After generating electricity, the excess energy goes through a utility metre and into your local power grid. However, when this electricity passes through the utility metre, it makes the metre run backward – this way, the excess electricity in your home is accounted for and credited.

Alternatively, you can invest in a solar battery system that effectively stores excess solar energy for future use at your convenience.

Since this detailed description has helped you understand how electricity is generated and transmitted through solar panels, let’s deeply examine the science behind it.

infographic hpw solar works

The Science Behind Solar Energy And PV Cells

Solar panels are constituted of photovoltaic cells that can convert sunlight into electricity. Made from semi-conductive materials like silicon, it can conduct electricity and create an imbalance required to form an electrical field.

As the sunlight hits the PV cells, the energy is absorbed in the form of photons, further loosening the bond between the electrons in the light. These loose electrons then freely flow into the cells. And since the solar panels have positively and negatively charged semiconductors, they create an electric field that redirects the electrons to flow in a certain direction.

The most conducive direction for the electrons to flow in this stage is towards the conductive metal plates lining the solar PV cells. Such energy flow towards a particular direction is known as “energy current,” Its intensity determines the quantity of electricity it can produce in each cell.

When the loose electrons reach the metal plates, the DC electricity goes to the designated wires for transmission. The conductive wires bring the recently generated current into the inverter, which converts it into AC electricity. Since most homeowners and consumers require alternating current (AC) to power their buildings and appliances, this conversion step is crucial to the entire process.

After the conversion, this usable current is transmitted from the inverter to the electrical panels (or breaker box), and from here, it is distributed to the entire building. Now, electricity is readily accessible to all power outlets, helping you run your electrical system efficiently.

What Is A Utility Metre?

As mentioned, the excess electricity is stored in the utility grid via the utility metre. But what exactly is a utility metre? Well, this type of metre measures the electricity flow and consumption from the utility grid to your home and vice versa. Some examples of how it functions are:

1. Excess Electricity Product

Let’s say the solar power system is producing more energy than what’s required for your home and your regular consumption, then the metre will run backward. This way, the utility metre ensures you’re credited for the extra energy production through “net metering.”

2. Higher Energy Consumption

If your home is consuming more electricity than what’s being produced by the solar power system, the metre ensures there’s extra energy for you to utilise. This means the metre initiates the supplementary energy stored in the utility grid to flow to your home when required. Unless you have another way to get electricity when you run out, the metre helps harness stored energy at night, especially when the solar panels are not in use.

Benefits Of Solar Energy

While understanding the actual science behind solar energy and how it’s harnessed is tricky, the fact that it’s immensely beneficial easily shines through. Let’s look at some of its benefits:

solar panels on tiled orange roof

1. Reduces Energy Bills

Since solar panels help you produce your own energy, there will be little to no requirement for energy from a utility supplier. This lower consumption via your energy supply will directly reflect in your energy bills, which will be minimal, to say the least!

You can also sell excess electricity stored in the utility grid to increase your income. This will make you both self-reliant and efficient.

2. Better For The Environment

Installing solar energy systems is considered a “green investment” since they power your home while having the least negative impact on the environment. Plus, it doesn’t require much water or emit noise compared to nuclear power plants, so it’s a win-win situation.

3. Versatility

Solar power can provide energy to almost all home electrical systems as long as there’s enough sunlight. This means you’ll have access to electricity even if you live in a remote place with no energy supplier.

Empowering The World: The Science & Potential Of Solar Energy

Investing in a solar power system is a great idea, especially in today’s world, where the environment suffers from harmful industrial waste and global warming. However, understanding the science behind solar energy and how it works doesn’t just make you climate-conscious but helps you run such systems at home with full working knowledge.

If you decide to install solar panels to improve your household’s energy efficiency, contact our licensed Sydney electricians for professional installation.

Our friendly team of expert, insured electricians can help you design and install the perfect solar system for your home. So, get in touch with us today to start your solar journey!

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