Solar 101 – How Does a Solar Panel Work?

August 14, 2017

You may already know that solar panels produce electricity by converting sunlight, but do you know how a photovoltaic cell actually works? In today’s post, we’re going to give a layperson’s explanation for how a solar panel does the job of creating electricity, and don’t worry – you don’t need a degree in physics to grasp the basics.


First and foremost, know that sunlight does not just make electric current on anything it touches. If the sun casts rays across a solar panel, the effect is very different from what happens when, say, you get a sunburn from staying in the sun too long. As you may know, light is composed of photons – tiny particles that travel through space until they hit whatever surface they encounter. Well, one side effect of a photon hitting a solar panel is the release of electrons along the semiconductive material that is part of the PV cell. When a photon hits the surface of a solar panel, the electrons are ‘shaken loose’ from the conductive material, and a current of charged electrons is created.


This current is harnessed by the physical makeup of the rest of the PV cell. In most cells, the current is channeled through circuits tied into an inverter. Once the electron flow hits the inverter, it is ‘inverted’ to AC power, a format that your home or business can use. Some solar panels have built-in DC-to-AC inverters, so the output of the panel can be easily integrated into the remainder of the electrical system. If a solar panel gets damaged, it is likely to continue producing power but at a seriously diminished output. Panels that crack or weather will start to show signs of deterioration beginning with noticeable drops in overall power output.


One aspect of solar panel technology that often goes overlooked is how the panels are selected and mounted. Each customer is unique, and some panels may not be ideal for some customers. Similarly, no mounting system is going to be universally perfect for every customer. This is why having a partner like Urban Solar results in the highest chance of long-term success with your solar power investment.


We know the kind of quality engineering and system design that yields the best outcomes, and we’re ready to help you by getting started with a free energy assessment. Head over to the contact page and submit a request for more information. One of our knowledgeable associates will be in touch shortly to answer all of your questions.