How is Solar Energy produced?
Solar energy is generated when sunlight hits the solar panels, which then convert solar energy into electricity suitable for our homes. This photovoltaic transformation is the way in which solar energy is produced. In this post, we will analyze in depth how a domestic solar system takes advantage of the sun’s energy.
Solar panels convert sunlight into energy
The process of creating energy from sunlight begins with the most important part of a solar installation: solar panels . A typical solar panel is made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon housed in a metal frame with a glass housing.
When sunlight strikes the thin layer of silicon at the top of a panel, it releases electrons from the silicon atoms. The electrons have a negative charge, which means that they are attracted to one side of the silicon cell. This creates an electrical current that is captured by the wiring of the solar panel.
Known as the “photovoltaic effect”, electrons that flow and have been released by sunlight are the basis of electricity generated from solar panels. The more sunbeams fall on the solar panels, the more electrons will be free, so it is important to consider factors such as shade and local cloud cover when designing a solar energy system.
Different solar panels produce electricity at different speeds depending on their efficiency and quality. High quality solar panels will often cost a bit more, but in the long term they will save you money because they produce electricity more efficiently.
Investors convert the energy of solar panels into usable electricity
Once the loose electrons have been collected in individual panels, the resulting current is known as direct current. The electricity we use to power devices, charge electric vehicles and turn on our lights is alternating current. The electricity generated by loose silicon electrons is DC electricity and must be converted to AC power before we can use it.
This conversion is done through devices called inverters . The inverters can be configured as chain inverters, microinverters or power optimizers, but each configuration performs the same general function of converting DC electricity into AC electricity. Once the DC electricity goes through the inverters and it becomes AC electricity. In this way, solar energy can be used at home or in the general electrical network.
Other solar panel technologies
Most of the available solar panels are made of crystalline silicon, but there are some other types of solar panels that produce electricity from the sun.
Cadmium telluride solar panels (CdTe)
CdTe panels use a material other than silicon to produce electricity. While they do not have very high efficiency ratings (yet), CdTe panels can capture solar energy at shorter wavelengths than silicon panels. In addition, manufacturing costs are low.
Solar panels of copper and Indian diselenide (CIGS)
With greater efficiencies than CdTe panels, CIGS panels are a promising panel option. Unfortunately, high production costs have prevented CIGS panels from reaching the general public. CIGS panels use a different material based on copper to generate electricity.
Organic photovoltaic cells (OPV)
Instead of using an inorganic material such as silicon or copper, OPV cells use thin layers of organic vapor to generate an electric current from sunlight. OPV cells have not yet been widely used due to low efficiency and short life compared to other panel technologies.
All these solar technologies fall under the umbrella of thin film panels, and are a very small part of the solar energy market in general. This is mainly because they are not profitable at present. In the future, these options may be technologies that dominate solar energy, but for now silicon solar panels dominate the industry.