Most people are familiar with the appearance of standard home and commercial solar power panels. What they don’t know, however, is how these devices work and what other forms they might come in. While it’s not uncommon to see panels affixed to roofs in residential neighborhoods, these are not the only forms out there.
So, how do solar panels work?
While it’s true that solar panels can vary greatly in size, design and even overall appearance, these devices tend to all follow a few common themes as far as their creation goes. When the desire is to harness the power of the sun to energize a home, electronic appliance or even an entire commercial operation, solar power panels are generally designed to:
• Absorb the sun’s power – Solar panels and full solar arrays are created to absorb the sun’s photon energy. This is generally achieved through the use of silicon as the semiconducting material.
• Transform it into electricity – Once a solar panel absorbs photon energy, the electrons, or negative charges, are set free from their atoms. This allows them to move through the semiconductor material to create electricity. This electricity is converted by the solar power panels into direct current, or DC electricity. This is then sent off to an inverter to be transformed into AC, or alternating current, electricity.
Solar power panels can vary rather greatly in size and capacity. Some of the more common systems people run into include:
• Solar cell designs – This is a very small solar system that is designed to operate a single, small appliance. A portable radio that runs off solar power, for example, might use only a single solar cell and a rechargeable battery to function. A cell is also the basic component of full solar power panel designs.
• Solar panel arrays – The rectangular constructions found on residential roofs are generally solar panel arrays. This means there are a multitude of solar panels that work in tandem to power a home or a system within a home. These solar power panels each include a number of individual solar cells.
• Solar dish systems – This is a unique type of solar array. Rather than take up a stationary position on a roof, this type of system is more mobile and can be rotated and adjusted to take maximum advantage of the sun’s rays.
Solar power panels are the basic component of an energy collection system that operates on a larger scale. A single solar panel is made up of a number of solar cells, each designed to absorb the sun’s energy for practical use.